We begin at the end

Preached Nov. 29, 3030 for Year B, Advent 1, based on Mark 13:24-37

The funny thing about this story, is that we’re starting at the end, instead of the beginning. But, that’s sort of what advent is all about!

Every Advent we begin by waiting for Jesus to arrive, just like the very first listeners of this story. Except, while we wait for him to arrive the first time, those listeners are waiting for him to return.

It’s a cycle that repeats itself over and over again – like a wheel.

Every Advent, we wait for Jesus to be born on Christmas Day. Then we follow the story of his life throughout the year, right up to his death on Good Friday, and resurrection on Easter. Then the cycle repeats itself again, and again, and again. Each year we tell different stories from his life, but the pattern remains the same.

Here’s the thing though, today’s story is all about when Jesus will come back to earth. A funny wait to begin a season waiting for him to be born!

After his death and resurrection, Jesus went to be with God. Before he did that he said he would come back for everyone he was leaving behind.

We’re not really sure what that means. It’s a big mystery. Lots of people have different ideas about it, but no one knows for sure. What we do know is that Jesus didn’t want his followers to feel like we were alone, even after he was gone. He wanted us to remember that God is with us, that he is beside us, on our own journey.

That’s part of why the church started to celebrate Advent, as a way of reminding ourselves that Jesus was born on earth, lived with humanity, and died as one of us. Advent is a reminder that he may have left but that we are not alone.

Jesus tells us that the Spirit, God’s Light, is with us to help us to remember.

And today, more than ever, we need that reminder! Because, it honestly feels like the world is ending, that stars are falling out of the sky! Everything feels out of our hands, beyond our control, and we ask God: Why?

Why? To climate change. Why? To COVID-19. Why? To senseless violence and hate.

Have you found yourself asking “Why?” this week? Why me? Why us? Why now?

***

Today’s prayers are brough to us by a man who has every reason to feel alone in the world. Ramiro Gonzales is scheduled to be executed on April 20, 2021. He has been imprisoned in Texas since 2006. He lives in a state that still practices the death penalty. He knows exactly when his time on earth will be up.

Ramiro has every reason to feel afraid. Every reason to ask “Why?” And, yet. And, yet he writes us a prayer of hope.

And yet, he knows he is not alone. Not abandoned.

***

Hope is a scary thing. Real hope is a terrifying push back against all those voices that tell us there is no point, that we can’t do enough, that the future is already laid out and bleak.

I like to think Jesus knew about those voices. Knew we would feel that way. I like to think that’s why he spends as much time as he does saying “Don’t be afraid!” And reminding us that he is with us, that God is with us, even when it feels hopeless.

Let that be your reminder, in your midnight hour, this Advent:

Don’t be afraid!

I bring you good tidings, of great joy.

God is at work in our world.

Amen.

Have hope.


Watch Ramiro’s prayer below.

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