Advent Possible: Reflections on Luke 21:25-36
To prepare for Jesus' future Advent, we need to notice and respond to his current presence. We are pretty good at selective noticing. There are lots of situations that are already present and developing in our lives that we manage to ignore. We are pretty good at noticing what we want and ignoring what we don't. There are things happening right now as I write and as you read that we aren't noticing but that, eventually, will demand our total attention and immediate response.
Our children or grandchildren are growing up while we are preoccupied with adult responsibilities and anxieties. Soon they will stand nearly grown before us, and we'll wonder where the time went.
Conditions are occurring within our bodies with symptoms we may be ignoring that, one day, will demand our attention.
A relationship may be fading due to lack of attention. One day we may face its loss with surprise, because we didn't see it coming.
Climate change, economic crises, the rise of religious intolerance—things are happening, and it shouldn't just be the professional futurists who are taking note. There will come a time, if there hasn't already, when these developments demand our immediate and full attention.
On the positive side, there are relationships that beckon us and opportunities that are open to us that we may not be noticing.
Someone who can save us is coming—is already here, actually. But we must do our part. We must be alert and be at prayer (21:26), so that we are sprouting leaves and bearing figs as good fig trees should do at the end of summer. Noticing the presence of the one who is coming is a key skill that replaces other habits, like fainting from fear and foreboding or being caught in a trap of dissipation or anxiety (21:34-35). We are to stand up and raise our heads, for our redemption is drawing near (21:28).
Jesus did not give in to fear and foreboding. He sought strength for what lay ahead in prayer. At the end of this apocalyptic passage in Luke, we are told that, "Every day he was teaching in the temple, and at night he would go out and spend the night on the Mount of Olives." We would do well to follow his example in the weeks ahead.
Howard Marshall, The New International Greek Testament Commentary on Luke (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1978).
Edward Earle Ellis, The New Century Bible Commentary: The Gospel of Luke (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1981).
Alyce M. McKenzie is the George W. and Nell Ayers Le Van Professor of Preaching and Worship at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University.