Tumbling in the Sand
The texts for Sunday, December 2, 2012 (Advent 1C): Jeremiah 33:14–16; Psalm 25:1–10; 1 Thessalonians 3:9–13; and Luke 21:25–36
“Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”- Luke 21:28
I suppose this is the power of hope.
Everything prior to this sentence in the Gospel reading from Luke is about the shaking of the universe: signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars. The earth full of distress—famine and war and disease and … And the sea will roar—waves breaking the boundaries of the coastlines leaving destruction behind the departing tides. Yeah. Basically sounds like right now. People in fear and panic over the state of the world. The world quite a mess.
It also, though, doesn’t sound all that different than at any other time in the history of the world. Which makes sense. It’s not like the universe is still—it is constantly expanding, exploding, creating, collapsing, recreating, colliding…shaking. There is nothing stable about “the foundations of the earth.” And to ponder it certainly does make one feel small.
And to ponder the chaos of the world: the starvation of children, the violent, meaningless deaths of so many in war, the loss of life in things like factory fires, the continued existence of slavery, the state of poverty and extreme wealth, the uncertainty of the future severely effected by global warming… it certainly does make one feel small and sad and maybe even afraid.
And even to ponder our own lives: how they always seem harder and not quite what we planned. And while all of those of us who read this probably have it way better than so many others, there are always moments were pain intrudes, where our broken reality becomes personal, where the world as we knew it seems to end. And it certainly can make us feel powerless.
But here, Jesus says: “when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads.” When the world seems to be crumbling, when you look out and want to despair, when you find the world crushing you so that your shoulders bow down to the ground—stand up and raise your head. Be strong. Know you are priceless—that every human life is priceless. Know that no matter how horrible it looks—your redemption is drawing near.
Hope. It has a way of lifting up the head and straightening the weighed down shoulders. Hope. It has a way of giving meaning. Hope. It has a way of giving joy when there seems no present reason for it.
Of course, it’s easy to wonder about the truth of such promises: people have died waiting for their redemption. And things can look pretty hopeless, especially when violence and hate seem to endlessly beget violence and hate. But, you know, I don’t think death is a final end. And I think that God’s redeeming will be about the healing of those alive and those who have died.
Also, I think that we have good reason to hope—because the signs of it are all around us. The trees bud out after a cold, dead winter. The crocuses spring up after the melting snow. The days get longer after the longest of nights and the sun warms the earth again. Children laugh. People love again. Wounds scar over. There are signs of hope all around us.
So, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.
Featured image: I borrowed this image from: Twenty-seven: the rambling musings of a widow on her journey from darkness to light.