1st Sunday of Advent
Bible Readings:- 1 Corinthians 1: 3-9 and Mark 13: 24-37
If I wished you a happy New Year today you would probably think I was expressing such a wish too early as we are only nearing the
end of November. However, last Sunday we marked the end of the liturgical year of the Church and today brings us into a New Year for the church as we take our first step into the season of Advent. This is the season when we concentrate on our waiting, hoping,
longing and anticipation of Christ’s return - and we reflect on our readiness for that time.
We know that it is going to happen because we believe in
Today we light the first candle on our Advent wreath. This is the candle of Hope, also known as ‘The Prophet’s Candle.’
All of us need hope at this time. The year 2020 will be remembered mainly for the Covid-19 pandemic around our world and the resulting sickness and loss of life that is its
unwanted legacy. There are many whose hope has been all but destroyed and possibly faith diminished through the loss of loved ones, as a result of this evil and we can surely understand their distress and heartache.
As Christians we are called to help rekindle their hope and also bring hope to those who due to their prevailing circumstances have never known it.
We can have hope because our God is faithful and will keep the promises made to us through the chosen prophets and of course by Jesus Himself.
week I was heartened by words written by Rob Frost in his spiritual focus, ‘A Journey Through Advent’, which I felt were worthy of inclusion here. He wrote: ‘One of the greatest joys of being a Christian is that we have a friend who is
a ‘Wonderful Counsellor’. His understanding of us and of our situation is perfect and complete. He has promised that, even in the darkest of days, He will never leave us or forsake us.’
The promises of Jesus will never be broken and during the past months of this pandemic, He has walked alongside us, sharing both the grieving at loss and the joy in recovery.
Looking at our reading from the gospel of Mark, As Jesus sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple that day, teaching on the ‘signs of the end of an age’ and His coming again as the Son of Man, there was
bewilderment on the part of the disciples – and we can probably empathise to some degree, as they ask, “when will these things take place?”
we are now in the 21st century – waiting and wondering!
But that is one of the problems with being human!
If we are not careful we can be lulled into this false sense of insecurity about the accuracy of Bible prophecy.
We have this tendency to expect Bible prophecy to fit into our own timescale rather than God’s.
We have to wrestle with it in the same way those disciples
Like them, we are human, but we shouldn’t doubt that Christ’s coming again will happen, because there is no falsehood in God’s Word, though
it is sometimes found in the human condition!
Only a few verses earlier than our gospel reading for today, Jesus warned the disciples to be on their guard against
false prophets who ‘will appear and perform signs and miracles to deceive the elect.’
How accurate His warning was!
There have been those who have predicted the actual date for Christ’s second coming.
leader William Miller predicted that Christ would return on the 21st March 1842 but then for some reason changed the date to the 3rd April 1843. Of course, disappointingly for his followers who gathered on a hillside outside New York,
it didn’t happen. Miller decided to recalculate the date and came up with the 18th April 1844. When yet again, Jesus didn’t appear as expected, many of Miller’s followers left his movement. But he persisted and came up with
another date for the Second Coming. This time it was to be 22nd October 1844.
Newspapers of the time spread the story with great enthusiasm.
There were accounts of crops not being harvested and being left in the fields to rot, shops being closed down, people leaving their jobs, paying up their debts and giving away
But of course, we all know that the second coming didn’t happen on that occasion either.
What a pity it was that even if Miler’s followers had actually read this account from Mark’s gospel, they obviously hadn’t understood it. Otherwise they wouldn’t have been misled by his false prophesies.
So we are told in Mark’s gospel that Jesus had been teaching and prophesying regarding the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in what is known as the Olivet discourse
and alludes to His own second coming. Verses 24 and 25 form part of Mark’s account of Jesus prophesying the terrifying events which would occur in Jerusalem some forty years later, when the temple was destroyed.
Jesus said: “In those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be
As theologian Tom Wright writes in his book, ‘Mark for everyone’ This is not a prediction of ‘The end of the world’ He concludes
that it is a graphic way of describing such catastrophic events of the future regarding a time when foreign armies will take over the temple and it would signal the end of a way of life for the people who had failed to obey God’s call to be the light
of the world. The fall of the temple would also signal God’s vindication of Jesus as the true leader of His people and by way of His death on the cross and resurrection take His seat at the right-hand of God. It also refers to the establishment of His
Church and its reaching out also to the Gentiles of the world.
I have previously described these two verses as being like a mountain top we see sticking up through
the cloud as we fly over in an aeroplane. Then we see another mountain top representing verses 26 and 27.
In these two verses Jesus says, “Then they will see
the ‘son of Man’ coming in clouds with great power and glory. Then He will send out the angels, and gather His elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.”
In these two verses Jesus brings this part of the discourse with the promise of His return in power and glory. He says, “Then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. Then He will
send out the angels, and gather His elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.”
Just for a moment, imagine we can only see
the two mountain tops above the cloud as we fly over. We have no idea what exists between them or how far apart they are at the base. We don’t know what separates those two mountain tops or the distance covered by any road between them.
That road could be straight or winding. We don’t know how long it will take to travel that road, so we don’t know when these later events will happen. But we can be
sure they will because Jesus said they will.
He goes on to say: “But about that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaver, nor the Son, but only
Beware! Keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come.”
I’m reminded of a story about a tourist who was travelling along the shores of Lake Como in northern Italy.
He reached a castle and a friendly
old gardener opened the gate and showed him the grounds, which the old man kept in perfect order.
The tourist asked if the owner was around.
The old man answered saying, “He has not been here for the past twelve years.”
The tourist asked,
“Does he telephone or write to you?”
gives you your instructions?”
“I get them from his agent in Milan”, said the gardener.
“Does the agent ever come to inspect?”
“Never” said the old man with a chuckle.
The tourist asked, “Who comes then?”
“I’m almost always alone,” said the gardener.
“Only once in a while, a tourist comes by.”
“But you keep these
gardens in such fine condition, just as though you expect the owner to
The gardener replied, “No, today sir! I keep them as if he is coming today.”
What about you?
Do you live your life in a state of readiness, as if at any moment Christ may return?
As sure as the buds of the fig tree signal the approach of summer, we see evidence around us that we are living in the last days. That could mean a few years, a hundred, or more but in the timeline of
humanity we are very likely nearer to the end of our waiting than at the beginning.
Jesus has given us a prophecy of hope to look forward to – it’s the
hope we have in His return.
Jesus wants us to live as if we expect Him to return today!
His prophesy regarding His return is a promise,
He says to the faithful, “I will return and take you to myself, so that where I am, there
you may be also.” (John 14: 3).
His promises can be trusted. He speaks only truth and if we understand the scriptures we can never be taken in by false prophets,
as so many others have been.
As we move forward into this New Year for the Church, we may wonder what awaits us.
There will be changes and there will be choices to make regarding our mission and ministry.
There will be challenges to face.
There will be those we might anticipate and others which come upon us suddenly.
These are not the predictions and prophecy of false prophets. They will come as part
of the evolution God has planned for His Church here – and He has provided and will continue to provide all that is required to deal with those situations.
final words regarding His return in this chapter from Mark’s gospel were not only for the disciples on that day, they were for us also.
He said to them, “What
I say to you, I say to everyone: Watch!”
As we enter this time of Advent and prepare to celebrate Christ’s coming into this world as a baby in a manger,
let us give thought to His second coming and our readiness to receive Him.
If we are ready when He comes, our watching, waiting, hoping, longing and anticipation
will be rewarded.
As St. Paul said, we will see the day dawn, in whose light the dim flickering candles of the present age will be needed no more. And we will be
lifted into the everlasting light of His glory.
Lord, you are our hope.
Come to us in power and glory.
May the darkness of our world be flooded with your radiance
And the clouds of despair and anxiety of the nations be dispelled.
Come into your creation to refresh renew and restore us
love enfold us and your peace be upon
Now and always.
Love and prayers.