A reading from the Gospel of Mark.
“From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
The Word of the Lord.
I've often struggled to understand why during the first week of Advent we read scriptures that have been interpreted in modern times to relate to the end times. It has always seemed odd to me that we enter into this season of waiting for the birth of a baby–The Baby–and this week of hope with Scriptures about the end of it all.
I read a tweet from Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove the other day that gave me a new perspective on the selection of eschatological scriptures for this first week of Advent.
And, there it began to make more sense for me. Our eschatology matters not just for the now and later, but for the past as well.
On this blog on Tuesday, I mentioned how Advent is like this epic novel that we're reading for the second or third or fourth or twelfth time. We know the ending. We know the beginning. But, we find ourselves somewhere in the middle. Somewhere between the beginning and the ending. Straining to remember how the story will resolve, yet waiting patiently to find out.
Advent is a lot like that. We know that Messiah will come. Yet, we force ourselves to stand between the knowledge of that coming and the actuality of that coming.
And into that mix, we add a further and deeper knowledge. The knowledge that Messiah doesn't just show up once in the story. Yet, He returns.
And, we remember that our eschatology really does matter. It matters not just for the future, but also for today.
And, so in this season of hoping for the Messiah, we hope for the Messiah to return again. To bring to its fullness the Kingdom that was introduced in a manager in Bethlehem. A Kingdom that seeks not to destroy planets and people, but rather it is a Kingdom that seeks to renew people to their original God-given intentions. It is a Kingdom that restores relationships.
As citizens of that Kingdom, we work now to bring that restoration and renewal to the people and places around us. We seek to restore broken relationships. We seek to feed those who are hungry. We seek to bring health and healing to the sick. We seek to bring peace to the war-torn and war-weary. We seek to bring life.
Our eschatology matters. Someday, King Jesus will return. And when He does the Kingdom will no longer be a place where we sit in tension between the now and the not yet. When He returns, it will all be made right. It will be renewed. It will be restored. It will be resurrected.
So, here in this first week of Advent, we long for the Messiah to come. And, we long for the Messiah to come again.
And, in our waiting, we bring the Kingdom to every place go and to every person we meet. Every interaction brings a little more light. The darkness gets a tiny bit less dark.