Advent 2011: 1.4 — Summer’s Just Around the Corner

Throughout this Advent season, my goal is to take each of the four Lectionary readings for each week and write a meditation about each one. Largely my motivation for this is simply that I love the season of Advent, yet there’s also a little bit of hoping that by blogging through this season, I can use it as a means to grieve the recent passing of my Dad.

WEEK 1: A reading from the Gospel of Mark

“Following those hard times, sun will fade out, moon cloud over, stars fall out of the sky, cosmic powers tremble.

“And then they will see the Son of Man enter in grand style, his arrival filling the sky–no one will miss it!  He’ll dispatch the angels; they will pull in the chosen from the four winds, from pole to pole.

“Take a lesson from the fig tree.  From the moment you notice its buds form, the merest hint of green, you know summer’s just around the corner.  And so it is with you.  When you see all these things, you know he is at the door.  Don’t take this lightly.  I’m not just saying this for some future generation, but for this one, too–these things will happen.  Sky and earth will wear out; my words won’t wear out.

“But the exact day and hour?  No one knows that, not even heaven’s angels, not even the Son.  Only the Father.  So keep a sharp lookout, for you don’t know the timetable.  It’s like a man who takes a trip, leaving home and putting his servants in charge, each assigned a task, and commanding the gatekeeper to stand watch.  So, stay at your post, watching.  You have no idea when the homeowner is returning, whether evening, midnight, cockcrow, or morning.  You don’t want him showing up unannounced, with you asleep on the job.  I say it to you, and I’m saying it to all: Stay at your post.  Keep watch.”

— Mark 13:24-37 (The Message)

Caleb in the Garden of the Gods

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am not a fan of cold weather.  I love summer.  Sunshine.  Warmth.  I love it.  If I had my way, it would be 90 degrees year-around.  Unfortunately, I don’t have my way.  As I write this and look out the office window, I see a cold overcast day.  It’s 40 degrees.  There’s a chance of snow in the next couple of days.  Winter is upon us.

As I read through this reading, I kept going back to the phrase “summer’s just around the corner.”  Summer is coming.  It’s almost here.

To be honest, this reading gave me some trouble from the moment I first looked at it.  It’s not what we have come to imagine as a typical Advent/Christmas story.  There are no shepherds, angels, Joseph’s or Mary’s.  Rather, we have Jesus on the brink of crucifixion.

Jesus is about to die.  Winter is about to come.

The Disciples have to be confused.  Here is their Leader — the One whom Peter had declared to be Messiah — about to die.  Yet, Kingdom hadn’t come.  At least, the Kingdom they expected.

Expectations.

What are your expectations from your time with Messiah?

What are your expectations of the Kingdom?

As we journeyed through the past 20 months of my Dad’s battle with Pancreatic Cancer, we knew that death was all but inevitable.  Yet, even with that knowledge, our expectations were that Dad would somehow beat death.  That he would somehow manage to live 20 more years.  Yet, after only 20 months, winter came.

Winter always comes.

Even in winter, Jesus promises something more than just cold and bleak.  As He is preparing His Disciples for his inevitable journey back to the Father, He tells them that He will send a Comforter.  He will send one to bring Peace in the storm.  He tells His Disciples, “I’m leaving you well and whole.  That’s my parting gift to you.  Peace.  I don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left–feeling abandoned, bereft.  So don’t be upset.  Don’t be distraught.” (John 14:27 (The Message))

Winter is here, yet Summer is coming.

As I read the passage from Mark, I found hope in the fact that summer is coming.  It’s right around the corner.

Warmth.

Sun.

Summer is coming.

Jesus leaves us with more than a Comforter and the hope of Summer.  Jesus leaves us with a mandate: “Prepare for Summer”, He says.

Keep working.

No sleeping on the job.

See, Jesus has called us each to do a job.  Everyone has been called.  We all have a task to do.  Summer is coming, and work needs to be done.  In the timetable of the Kingdom, we don’t know when Summer will finally arrive.  So, we’re told, to keep working.

Keep the expectation intact.

Keep the hope alive.

Keep at it until Summer has come.

As my Dad drew close to his last breath, he kept true to his character.  He kept true to his vocation.  He kept teaching.  That final lesson was very similar to what Jesus is telling us in this passage.  Keep fighting the good fight.  Don’t give up just because it’s cold.  Don’t quit because it’s dreary and overcast.  Keep on fighting.

Be ready!  Summer is just around the corner.

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