Mark 13:1 As he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, "Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!" 2 Then Jesus asked him, "Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down." 3 When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, 4 "Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?" 5 Then Jesus began to say to them, "Beware that no one leads you astray. 6 Many will come in my name and say, 'I am he!' and they will lead many astray. 7 When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. 8 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birth pangs. 9 "As for yourselves, beware; for they will hand you over to councils; and you will be beaten in synagogues; and you will stand before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them. 10 And the good news must first be proclaimed to all nations. 11 When they bring you to trial and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say; but say whatever is given you at that time, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. 12 Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; 13 and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
In this second week of Advent: I hear of hostages in Yemen who are executed by al-Quaeda, a friend who is mugged at knife point on her way back from the beach, and a power crisis in our country while the CEO of the power company earns more than R22 million a year – and I wish that Christmas could miraculously take it all away.
As we struggle with the human predicament of life we become frightened of “wars and rumours of war”, and earthquakes, and famines. Our fear leads us in search of people who will guarantee us safety and security. And many Christian preachers respond with a gospel of prosperity and guaranteed blessings.
In the passage above, Jesus warns against people who use his name to offer an escape from the difficult moments in this life. He says that these things “must take place” as part of life. His followers will not be exempt from the struggles, fears and betrayals endemic to human life together. The good news, however, is that the Holy Spirit accompanies us through such trials, and will enable us to endure “to the end”. Christmas therefore becomes a moment to be reminded that God comes to the difficult places of life – the stable, the manger, and the straw of life. God comes to live with us in our struggles. So let us choose life – life in the midst of difficulty. And let us choose to live alongside the difficulties experienced by the people we encounter. The Spirit of God will accompany us through it all.
Third Sunday in Advent
3.The Coming of Christ
The Scripture passage for the day is drawn from Reuben Job and Norman Shawchuck, A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and other Servants, (Nashville, The Upper Room 1983), 26.
This reflection is from my own devotional exercises for the day.