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Note: For Advent, I am including comments on the First and Second Testament passages.
This lament is a good place to begin Advent.
Like most laments in the Bible, it begins with a deeply felt sense of God’s absence:
O that you would tear open the heavens and come down!
Mountains would see you and shake with fear. And certainly our enemies would tremble. (Unlike now, where they oppress us with impunity.)
Then there is the re-collection of times past:
From ages past no one has heard, … a God like you.
And of how God and God’s people behave when the relationship is as it should be:
(You work) for those who wait for (you);
You meet those who gladly do right;
those who remember you in your ways.
Then there is an explanation of why God is absent:
God is angry because of our sins.
And finally, there is an appeal to God:
Consider, we are your people (whom YOU have made.)
Notice that the appeal is NOT based on a promise to sin no more - which of course would be a false promise. Rather it is based on the only thing that can be trusted - God's covenant, steadfast love.
This passage is taken from Mark’s version Jesus’ final discourse – that is, Jesus’ last extended talking with his followers before his arrest and execution.
This Chapter 13 begins with a public, matter-of-fact observation that the stones of the temple “will all be thrown down,” which is then followed with a private explanation.
The rest of this Chapter then follows a very familiar, wide-spread, common practice of a person who is about to die telling his nearest and dearest what is to happen to them in the immediate future; giving blessings; and giving warnings. None of this should be read as a “prophecy” of a far-off, distant future.
Note that just as the withered leaf in Isaiah is a sign of our iniquity; in Mark, the new leaf is a sign that the Son of Man is near.
In Verses 30 and 31, Jesus gives his word of honour and makes an oath that all these will happen within the lifetimes of “this generation.” This promise would later give rise to the Church’s first crisis of faith as “this generation” DID begin to pass away, and yet the Son of Man did not return. What then are we to make of Jesus? Or at a minimum: of the words of Jesus that others recorded in the Bible?
However, there is a huge, “But,” in Verse 32 which adds a significant qualification to the promise in Verses 30 and 32: Only the Father knows the day or hour when all these things will happen.
Jesus’ followers would still have heard this as meaning, “No one knows when this will happen within our lifetimes.” But this unfulfilled hope is still in our hearts 2,000 years later.
However, the lesson for Advent is still: Stay awake. Be alert. Live in expectation. Live now as you would when the Son of Man does return.
Just as this Chapter began with a common-sense, matter-of-fact observation (no word of honour, no oath made) that the stones of the temple would one day all be cast down, so too at the end we are called to remember, matter-of-factly, that everything in OUR world will also pass away. And so maybe it is just a matter of common-sense to also live right now as we anticipate we would live were Christ here with us.