Advent One: Christ, Our Hope!

Advent One: Christ, Our Hope!

Luke 21:25-37

 We’re told how Jesus had been spending time in the temple each day teaching before spending the nights, probably with his disciples, on the Mount of Olives… That’s where we find them in todays reading. It forms part of what is known as the ‘Prophetic Discourse’.

There has been lots of speculation about the ‘Second Coming’. Some believe it in a quite literal sense – that just as Jesus arrived on earth as a baby at Christmas, so one day Jesus will ‘come again’ to ‘settle everything’- though no-one knows the exact when and how of it. Others may believe it as well, but in a less literal and I believe far deeper, more meaningful sense. Most Christians believe that there is a change point in our lives, a focussing highlight, a goal to all of this, and that what Jesus is talking about in this text is our realization of that goal.

And more: that it’s for us to realize now – as vs 32 stresses how it’s truth for this generation! Our generation! Implying, every generation!

It’s perfectly understandable that we want to understand what it means when things are difficult – and for those disciples they were about to get VERY difficult. Construction of their magnificent new temple had begun under Herod the Great about 20 years before Jesus was born and was due to be completed in about 30 years time – in 63CE. Truly truly magnificent!

But it was only exist for about 7 years before being utterly destroyed in 70CE with the sacking of Jerusalem – totally devastating!

Clearly, hardship, even terrible cataclysmic hardship happens, and what are we to make of it when they do? Just these last few years:

First, there’s been our slowly dawning awareness of the deadly effects we are having on this planet: this global climate crisis we are all facing. There is our coming to notice how our rapidly escalating carbon emissions and wanton abuse of our natural resources are heating and destroying life as we know it. There’s also the emergence of angry resistance from science-denying lobby of conspiracy theorists who seem to be emerging everywhere to challenge, even fight that awareness! What’s the matter with us?

Then, there’s this deadly Corona virus and the massive fear-tsunami which it has generated by causing over 250m global infections, with 5 m deaths, not to mention the life-stealing enforced isolation of literally billions of people…! And, of course, again, still also the ire-hysteria of yet more science-denying conspiracy theorists: the vitriol of the anti-maskers & anti-vax protesters who believe that it’s somehow in our best interests NOT to do whatever can to stop it by following the various global and local Health Orders!

Then, this past summer, the unprecedented wildfires in BC: The suffocating smoke, the evacuation alerts and orders, the destruction of so much property and lives, animal and human. And our razed land left so desperately vulnerable to flooding when the rains come –and now that they have come – the flooding that has caused unprecedented devastation including loss of so much infrastructure and property and life.

What are we to make of all this especially in the light of todays text? Can’t you just hear the doomsday end-times soothsayers trumpeting their interpretations of what all these disasters must mean: marking the end of the world? I think that they are probably quite correct, but certainly not in the way they most probably mean!

I’m sure that’s how it must always have felt as people faced all sorts of calamitous suffering down the ages: the Christians during the awful Roman persecution of the first centuries, when they were among those fed for entertainment to wild animals. Later, during the Bubonic plague of the 14th century as some 50m people died with nothing seemingly able to stop this ‘Black Death’. Or in the last century when the Nazi juggernaut moved through the Jewish and other vulnerable European communities resulting in over 6 million concentration camp deaths.

There are innumerable examples of when it must have seemed like the end had come! I think of the hopelessness still felt by those in overfilled refugee camps, or of those trapped in the living hell of substance addiction, in cycles of poverty, in suffocating relationships that just seem to be getting worse. Could any of those events – and many others like them – likely be understood to be marking the end of the world? Is that what texts like today’s reading are pointing us toward?  Is that how we are to understand this teaching – Jesus preparing us to get ready for the end?

As I said, this teaching is part of what they call ‘The Prophetic discourse’. It’s from a literary genre described as Apocalyptic Eschatology![i] Jesus is wanting us to brace for the letting go of one way of our living and perceiving, in order to empower our embracing of something so much better, something which is both right now, as well as still to come. This is what some scholars call a ‘realized eschatology’, or what others have developed into what they call an ‘inaugurated eschatology’.[ii] These are technical theological words that simply mean that the Kingdom of God that Jesus is teaching, and that we constantly pray for, is not only a gift belonging to the future, as also something already uncovered. It is an already started-to-be opened gift for us to begin receiving nowIt is both perfectly right here as well as still to come, but with less to do with what may be happening in the future and much more with what is happening right here, right now/ something happening all the time and which we believe will somehow be perfectly, fulfilled in the future.

Jesus is shocking the disciples NOT just by describing events that will ONE DAY happen so much as by describing life as it is now, stressing his everyday arrival into our deepest awareness of sacred presence as the only ultimately life-giving constant!

That’s where the ‘HOPE’ of all Christian life is born.

THAT IS OUR CHRISTIAN – OUR CHRISTMAS – HOPE![iii]

Our hope is not just that ‘Christ comes one day’ so much as that we get to see/ own/ realize Christ’s presence as having come now, wherever we are! It’s THAT realization/ that emergent awareness, which we believe is always enough! All the time! Everywhere! It’s glorious to know that the final point of our living now is not ever to be defined so much by any of the chaos and suffering-misery that we may know as the result of the worst of ourselves and our circumstances – but by our living into an ever-increasing awareness of the reign of God.

That’s what defines us and compels us to be better than we are. It’s where we get to be defined less by the seductions of despair, brokenness, fear and hate and so much more by the sacred beauty of the hope, peace, joy and love of Christ’s Advent! That is ultimately the effect of our realizing Christ’s coming in us, for us, and for others through us!

I’d like to close with a reflection from David Adam’s ‘Call of the Deer’ who draws meditations from the ancient Hymn of St Patrick.

As we allow ourselves to think about the various encounters
that we anticipate having with others in this first Advent week…
In the birth of a child/ a grandchild…
In the love of parents/ grandparents…
In the joining of lives…

We encounter Christ. Christ is with us.

In the questions of a stranger…
In our meetings with a friend…
In any meeting with any other:
at the store, in a cash register line up, in a doctor’s waiting room… 

We encounter Christ. Christ is with us.

In the office routine…
In an elevator, at a post office…
At the vaccination clinic… 

We encounter Christ. Christ is with us.

O Holy Spirit open our eyes, and we shall behold your glory in others
Open our hearts, and we shall discover your love in others
Open our lives, and all our living shall become as a fragrant praise to you
Because you are the caller,
You are the stranger at my door, the wanderer across my path,
the unfed, the homeless shadow huddled with no bed
You are that one being driven insane by their sufferings
You are the child crying out in pain
You are whomever the other is – the one who comes to me…
and as I open to that reality,
so I am given to see how it’s you who are being born again, in me
Dearest Christ, give to us the ability to
recognize in others the radiance of your face.
May we get to see the irresistible light of your eyes
shining in the depths of all things…
You in the souls of everyone I meet…

‘Summoned or not summoned, You O God are here’[iv] – in all your empowering beauty, and that is always still why we can be hopeful in every circumstance!


Rev. Robin Jacobson reserves all rights © 2021.
You are welcome to use, copy, edit or reproduce this sermon summary with copyright attached. Publication is prohibited.


[i] Apocalyptic writing – from Greek (apokaluptein) meaning to ‘uncover’ – is all about the ‘exposing’ ‘revealing’ or ‘making apparent’ of what may otherwise be hidden, and ‘eschatology’ – from Greek (eskhatos ) ‘last’ – is all about describing the end of things, or end of times.

[ii] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inaugurated_eschatology

[iii] Hebrews 11: to have faith is “to be sure of what we hope for and certain of that which we cannot (as yet) see”.

[iv] Words over the entrance to Carl Jung’s study: Vocatus atque non vocatus, Deus aderit