November 29, 2021 | Todd Tharp
About the author: Todd Tharp and his wife Christy have been a part of ZPC since 1997. They raised 3 sons here – Drew, Cole, and Jackson. Todd is active in the ZPC Choir and in missions with Youth For Christ. He has served as an Elder as well as on multiple teams with the Great Banquet.
Today's scripture: Luke 21:25-36
“There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea.” - Luke 21:25
I’ve always liked Advent. I like the way our house looks, the music, the smells, and the glorious food. It’s a time of anticipation and excitement. Certainly, the focal point of Advent is the anticipation of Jesus birth, but there are family get togethers, presents, and Santa Claus too! It’s a time to reflect on the past year, and to look forward to the coming new year. It’s a season that makes it easy to remember what it was like to be a kid. It’s all about the anticipation, the waiting.
Doesn’t it seem odd for Advent that the reading for us today has an apocalyptic tone to it?
The scripture tells us that there will be signs, that there will be anguish and perplexity. Surely some gnashing of teeth as well…actually it doesn’t say that, but I always get a certain vision in my head when they talk about gnashing of teeth, so I just threw that in there for effect. You don’t need to look very far to find some evidence that these conditions exist in our world today.
Admittedly, the times are scary. Signs are everywhere, and not exactly well hidden. We see them on the news every day. In our government, where it seems representatives of BOTH political parties are morally and politically unable to do the people’s business of improving the welfare of our country. We see it in ourselves as we dig in our heels in our response to the pandemic and our personal responsibilities for the good of all. And we may see signs in much more personal ways…Regrets of our shortcomings or failures, and ways in which we have letdown or hurt the ones we love the most. Just as we think that this is surely the end of our world, the text tells us to “lift our heads” because our redemption is drawing near. And he reminds us that we have reason to be hopeful. It’s all about the anticipation, the waiting.
No wonder we have a progressive lighting of the Advent candles to take away our fears and discouragement. We need to hear the message of Jesus' birth. We need words of encouragement when the daily news bombards us with images not unlike the verses in Luke 21. The signs are not a reason to hang our head in despair or shrink from life. That we can see the signs in our lives and world means that the circumstances we face and the events that happen contain and reveal the promise of Christ’s coming. The signs are our hope and reassurance that God has not abandoned us. God notices us, he cares, comes to, and participates in our life’s circumstances.
Jesus’ parable of the fig tree teaches us how to read the signs. The signs are as ordinary and common as a fig tree sprouting leaves. We see the leaves and we know something is happening. Summer is already near. It’s a new season, the Kingdom of God is near. It’s all about the anticipation, the waiting.
We come to you in this season of Advent. Our world is filled with darkness as we wait for the Light. As we go about our busy-ness of Christmas preparations and celebration, let us pause. Let us look around and see you at work in our world, and help us to watch and wait for you to come into our lives in a new way.