Advent is a very un-American season. We expect things to be done NOW! If we cannot get what we want right now, then we want to know WHEN, right down to the minute. We assume we are in control of our lives and of all the people and events surrounding our lives. Reading Mark 13 should bring us up short in all those assumptions, even as Jesus had to tell Peter and the others:
“But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”
When reading the Bible we should always ask, “What is God doing here?” Then we should ask ourselves, “How do we stand with God in this activity?” Mark tells us in the passage for Advent 1 that God is waiting for the right time, much to the frustration of the disciples. The world in which Jesus lived and the world some years later when Mark put the Gospel into writing was filled with wars, civil unrest, and occupying armies. Most of the people who followed Jesus thought that was just the right time for Jesus to lead a rebellion against Rome and all those cooperating with Rome. Waiting seemed too much to ask of them and yet Jesus says to stay awake for no one knows when all this will happen.
We, today, find waiting very difficult. Just listen to the horns sound when the light turns green. Waiting for the results of medical tests or college applications or dinner to be served in a restaurant are all serious challenges for many of us. We want results now, a quick fix to all life’s problems. This approach is exactly what Jesus tells us is not available from God. We are not the ones in charge of life, God is, and the Kingdom of God is coming in God’s time. There is nothing we can say or do that will change that.
This is the time of year when waiting for Christ to come can strain our patience. The turmoils of this year in politics in the US and around the world, the fighting in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan, the shootings and bombings in so many places can sound to us a lot like the events Jesus describes in Mark 13. In fact there are some people hoping that all of this might mean Jesus is about to come again. I suspect each of us have had a point in our lives when we feel, “Enough is enough!” Jewish people still waiting for the Messiah sometimes hope the persecutions in their lives will lead to this happening.
We are always ready to take over for God and get the job done. From Genesis to the Book of Revelation and right on to today people try to be God. Whether we come to worship on Sunday wondering why we need to confess sins, or we look at our neighbors and feel sure they will burn in Hell, we are usurping the role that belongs exclusively to God. Jesus died on the cross because most of the time we are busy playing God instead of listening to Him and following.
A quote I was taught from the works of the 19th century lay evangelist, D. L. Moody, perhaps best expresses how we should stand and wait with God:
“Work as though your live would endless be. Live as though tomorrow ushered in eternity.”
Bill was ordained by Albany Presbytery in June 1962 and after one year away as a Campus Ministry Intern, he returned to the Presbytery and has been a member ever since. He has served 5 different congregations in that time, mostly as a tentmaker. As a tentmaker he worked full-time as a computer programmer and a teacher of programmers. He is a past moderator of the Association of Presbyterian Tentmakers, with his wife an Associate Member of the Iona Community and a member of CHRISM. (Christians in Secular Ministry.)