Advent: The End or the Beginning?
My mother, who became a staunch Pentecostal in the last half of her life, was always known to comment on disturbing world events by saying “Jesus is nigh unto the door.” For her, these signs of the times were an indication that the world was about to end, in preparation for the Second Coming of Christ, complete with the destruction of evil, and the triumph of the righteous.
In the 21
chapter of Luke’s gospel, Jesus outlines three signs that signal the end: the appearance of false messiahs; wars and international conflicts; and natural disasters. Not much has changed since the first century. In every age since Jesus has been “nigh unto the door.” In the 21st century, with the election and appointment of immoral leaders, mass shootings and bombings, and the effects of climate change, we seem to be on the threshold of that door into the end.
Advent is a threshold. On this first Sunday of the Christian liturgical year, we hold the end and the beginning in creative tension. That is why this season has always had an
element to it.
is a Greek word, which means, “uncovering” or “unveiling.” Nadia Bolz-Weber defines it as “a big hope filled idea” exposing the fact that dominant powers are not ultimate powers.
Focus on the doom and gloom of apocalypse, as well as preoccupation with calculating the exact time when the world will end, overshadow its hopeful intent.
Apocalyptic writing in the Bible was not meant to scare people into belief, but to encourage their belief in a God who is bigger than the world’s dominant powers.
Movements such as # BlackLivesMatter, #MeToo, Time’s Up, and the Migrant Caravans are a “lifting of the veil,” an exposing, of the heresy of domination. The apocalyptic message of Advent is that Jesus as the only begotten has “unveiled God.” God’s advent into our world and into our lives provides a way of transformation—everything is shaken up, laid bare. Old ways of being and the status quo are brought to an end so that something radically new will take its place.
Apocalypse is always with us. Not only does it invite us to have belief in a God who is bigger than the world’s powers, it also invites us to daily transformation as we let go of old habits and attitudes and lift the veil on the racism, sexism, and xenophobia in our personal lives and the lives of the institutions to which we belong.
Thomas Merton has said Advent is “the beginning of the end of all, in us, that is not yet Christ.” Amen. May it be so.