“Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me” is a National Public Radio’s hour-long quiz program that tests your knowledge and vocabulary against some of the best and brightest in the news and entertainment world while figuring out what’s real and what’s made up. The show focuses on the current word in the world, word as in what’s happening and not The Word as in Jesus. I enjoy the bantering of the very literate guests and how the show is a series of riddles and word problems, similar to the Gospel reading from Mark today…
Following those hard times, Sun will fade out, moon cloud over, Stars fall out of the sky, cosmic powers tremble.”
That’s some weather forecast, coming on the heels of great suffering…
- Kind of like getting hit by a hurricane, only to be devastated by a surprise Nor‘easter,
- Or losing your job, only to find out that your spouse has terminal cancer,
- Or failing the big test, only to find out that you got cut from the team.
But wait, there’s more…
And then they’ll see the Son of Man enter in grand style, his Arrival filling the sky—no one will miss it! He’ll dispatch the angels; they will pull in the chosen from the four winds, from pole to pole.
This is more than stormy weather, Jesus is returning and this time will do so with more than a simple nativity and shiny star, although shiny stars were wonders of the sky in ancient times, thought to be spiritual powers.
But wait, there’s more, how about a riddle of a fig tree…
Take a lesson from the fig tree. From the moment you notice its buds form, the merest hint of green, you know summer’s just around the corner. And so it is with you. When you see all these things, you know he is at the door. Don’t take this lightly. I’m not just saying this for some future generation, but for this one, too—these things will happen. Sky and earth will wear out; my words won’t wear out.
So should we be looking for clues springing up in the stars, or in fig orchards…? It doesn’t matter what happens cosmically or what kind of havoc is wreaked on earth, words, the Word, the most important words, the good news of Jesus Christ, our Messiah for whom we wait… will not wear out, will not abandon us, will come again.
But wait, when is this going down?
But the exact day and hour? No one knows that, not even heaven’s angels, not even the Son. Only the Father. So keep a sharp lookout, for you don’t know the timetable. It’s like a man who takes a trip, leaving home and putting his servants in charge, each assigned a task, and commanding the gatekeeper to stand watch. So, stay at your post, watching. You have no idea when the homeowner is returning, whether evening, midnight, cockcrow, or morning. You don’t want him showing up unannounced, with you asleep on the job. I say it to you, and I’m saying it to all: Stay at your post. Keep watch.” (The Message)
So we have this urgent image of the Son of Man coming. We do not know when or where, but are told to wait. But wait—we don’t like to wait. And all these cryptic riddle-like clues—how in the world will we know when. When will Jesus, our savior come again to save our messed up lives, our fragile environment, our broken world. Heaven help us we cry… and that’s exactly what will happen.
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This is the time of year we wait. We wait for the last of the oak leaves to fall, you know the ones still holding on that are dry and dead. We wait for snow… some with hope and others with dread. We are still in shock over the early snow that covered the filth and waste staining our surroundings. It reminded us of the death of another year, an unexpected early end to autumn this year. But that fresh clean blanket of snow melted and revealed the dirt and brokenness of our world, and days of cold darkness reminded us of our passive participation in the world’s suffering.
As we reflect on the end of the year, the end of times and the end of fall when the days get darker and the nights get colder, the Hebrew Scripture text from the prophet Isaiah speaks of our heavy hearts and burdened consciences in a confession appropriate for the end of fall:
- We are unfit to worship you; each of our good deeds is merely a filthy rag.
- We dry up like leaves; our sins storm winds sweeping us away. (CEV)
This time of year we wait. We wait for the holiday season to be over. We wait for the malls to be less crowded, the sales prices to be just right, the perfect present to be found. We wait for the next party, the next extended family get together, the next holiday stress inducing person, place, or thing to be past… we wait for a fresh start, hopeful beginnings, a new year, better than the one that we are struggling to finish.
And so we wait. Not for the real reason for the season, but for our own reasons, for things of our own dreaming and making. Mark reminds us today, the first day of a new Church Year, that what we wait for is what matters most. What we wait for is the advent, the coming of our Lord.
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But we don’t like to wait. And we don’t like not knowing when. So rather than spinning our wheels, wasting our time trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together, figuring out when and what the end will be like… we are called to alertness, warned to readiness, given our task to always be prepared for the Son of Man to come.
- Jesus will come with surprise and an immediacy that will more than likely catch us off guard.
- Jesus will come when we least expect him, like a thief in the night.
- Jesus will come and bring the end of the world as we know it just as he did more than two-thousand years ago.
But we would rather wrap ourselves in living for today. Hurrying and scurrying through another Christmas without regard to Advent, to a time to slowly, calmly and intentionally wait, wait and prepare for the Lord whose day is near. We don’t like to wait…
- We want to put-up the tree and turn on the lights,
- We want to listen to Christmas Carols and open up all the presents,
- We want to skip the waiting and rush to the stable and gaze upon the baby.
Thankfully, this new year, this beginning of Advent comes with a word from God through the Apostle Mark that today, is about welcoming a season of waiting and relying on God’s grace. God promises that the signs of the coming of the Son of Man will include the darkening of the sun, moon, and stars but wait for it…. there is hope!
The promise of Advent is that God is always at work in the world, bringing new beginnings and a new creation to a world hell-bent on consuming and destroying itself. But we live with hope in the generation, time and space between the “already” of Christ’s resurrection and the “not yet” of God’s full restoration of the creation. This full restoration will include the return, a new advent of the Messiah, our King.
It is in that promise, that hope-filled place (even if it is one filled with waiting), that instead of being preoccupied with the end and when Jesus will return, we are advised to live intentionally in a state of preparedness. We live in hope-filled place, knowing that our promised home is God’s home and that God is coming once again to dwell with us.
As we wait, my prayer for us all is to be focused, to stay awake in the present moment to the presence of God. That we not only watch and wait, but also create signs that God is among us as we wait. Jesus will come again soon and very soon… and when He does, there will be no more crying here, no more dying here.
Soon and very soon we are going to see the King. Halleluiah and Amen!