Author: Isaiah Lewis
Reflection: v. 24, ‘But in those days…’
It’s very hard not to think of 2020 as the end of the world. A pandemic that’s left nearly 1.5 million people dead and millions more sick. People’s livelihoods snatched away. A rise in jingoism in half a dozen countries, including our own. Police officers murdering Black people with impunity, regardless of evidence. Protests violently suppressed. Wildfires and hurricanes. In the face of so many threats, it’s hard to know what to do, let alone what to hope. So it makes sense that this is the year we’d start Advent with a rundown of the apocalypse.
The word ‘apocalypse’ means an unveiling or revelation of the way things are. In this passage, Jesus warns his disciples that terrible things are happening and that their job is to be attuned to the reality-changing entrance of the messiah into that chaos. In fact, Jesus even gives them four specific times to look for the presence of their savior. In their terror, though, they immediately start missing the cues. They fall asleep in the evening when Jesus goes to pray. They scatter at midnight when confronted with an angry mob. Peter denies knowing Jesus while waiting for the trial to end. And finally the whole community rejects Jesus, foisting him onto the empire to be executed.
Why is this an Advent story? I think it’s because God has no illusion that things have been going well for us. We’re surrounded by death-dealing power, and when we get tired and afraid, it’s easy to forget what Jesus’ revolutionary revelation looks like: the holiness of a baby, a teacher, a prisoner. God is a poor boy born in a barn and murdered by the state. And God is life, which no empire can destroy. Like the shepherds at Jesus’ birth and the disciples at his death, we’re called to keep watch.
Prayer Help us to keep watch for your advent, O God.