Dec. 8 Luke 21:29-38 Heather Macarthur
Today’s reading is all about being watchful for signs of change. Jesus, as he so often does, uses the natural world as a vehicle for his message. Fig trees, as many trees do, show buds a long time before they flower. I think about this when in the deep miserable cold of February, I notice buds emerge on the dogwood trees and forsythia bushes and I feel a surge of hope for the coming of Spring, even though nothing else looks even remotely alive, and the ground is still cold and bare. Of course, Jesus is not talking about the seasons of the year in this passage but rather the season that will herald the end of the world as we know it!
The preceding parts of this chapter have dealt with some very very heavy topics, including the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the World! At the end of the chapter Jesus is telling us to be watchful and alert so we’re not surprised when these things happen. To be honest, these passages (fueled with some very “end times” 1970s Christian movies) scared me very much as a child, and still weigh heavily on me as to what they signify. But among the stark stories of destruction and chaos I believe there is hope. Just like the buds on the trees in February don’t negate the ongoing misery of winter, they do signify something much better is on its way. So too are the buds of hope that unjust systems will finally be destroyed, although that might be very hard to believe right now. But it is difficult not to be so weighed down with the cares and busyness of life that we miss those buds of change appearing. I think Jesus is ultimately telling us to be mindful and present, to use modern parlance. That seems so easy to say and often I tell myself that I’m going to be present in the moment this week, I’m not going to be so rushed about that I don’t have time to be still and reflect. And then the week starts, and I find myself blown from one deadline to another with hardly any time to take a breath, far less be mindful and present! It seems so very difficult to “watch and wait”. Perhaps Advent is a good time to practice the discipline of watching and waiting, at least for a few moments each day. I really like these lines from the poem, Being Watchful, by Wendell Berry:
Hurry is beside the point, useless, an obstruction.
The thing is to be attentively present.
To sit and wait is as important as to move.
Patience is as valuable as industry.”
Prayer Dear God, help us to stop, and be still in the moment so we don’t miss what you want us to see changing around us, heralding a whole new world about to begin.