1 Advent

Isa. 64:1-9Ps. 80:1-7, 16-181 Cor. 1:3-9Mark 13:24-37

“Peace, break thee off; look where it comes again” (Hamlet, I,i). So the dead king appears, so death walks, so the end comes. What now is to be done with this news that the foundations have opened and the tormented dead take their place among the living? What past crimes haunt the present, what deeds done in secret spread a sickness unto death! All hell is breaking loose; it is, it has, and more is to come. A price is to be paid in blood and treasure, again and again.

Having returned to a land bereft of its sacred foundations, dry and lifeless like a valley of bones, the pilgrims look to an end, but not an end in death’s striding, death’s invocation of yet more blood. Rather, they ask, they demand, they lament in telling the heavens to divide. The firmament’s fabric is torn, the hills shiver, fires kindle, the glory of God goes out “so that all the nations might tremble at your presence” (Isa. 64: 2). The vision they await is beyond all knowing: “From ages past no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who works for those who wait for him” (Isa. 64:4). They expect something and someone not of this world to break in, to ride down upon the winds and to take root in Earth’s soil and flower forth in human hearts. Look where it comes! Look — life itself!

Jesus speaks: “In those days, after that suffering.” Thus he speaks to every time and place. And he sees reflected in the heavens signs of his own arrival. “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 shaken. They will see ‘the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory’” (Mark 13:24-26). Verbum caro factum est et habitavit in nobis. The Eternal Word camps in human community, but not simply as the fruit of that community void of divine grace. The Word is the unmade intelligence of the Father, the ordering and renewing presence from beyond heaven and earth.

He comes in creating and ordering all things, he comes as voice to prophets, he comes as the written law, he comes in the forming of a people and nation, he comes as judgment, he comes as a call to renew the temple, he comes as the people’s expectancy. In the fullness of time he comes as the only begotten of the father, full of grace and truth. He comes in what he says and does, in parabolic word and perplexing deeds. He comes in his suffering, death, resurrection, ascension, and a thousand million Spirit-filled comings in sacraments, and rites, and signs, and times, and moments, and tears. He comes in the unearned blessings of love and life. But he comes mysteriously as the one beyond this world who is the world’s very being, our meaning, and our life.

Our war-torn and anxious world seeks not from us a happy denial, but a deep hope that waits and works from the promise of God’s arrival in his Son from moment to moment. This is why, before turning to Paul’s criticism of the people in Corinth, his commendation of their gifts is to be taken as entirely sincere. They are gifted because the Gift has come. “I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind” (1 Cor. 1:4).

Look It Up
Read Mark 13:27. Keep awake.

Think About It
Look you. He comes.

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