The holy gospel according to Luke the 21st Chapter. Glory to you, O Lord. [Jesus said:] “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Then he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. “Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”
When I started planning for Advent this summer, I was struck by some beautiful art work and scriptural themes tied together for the season called Close to Home, and the first Sundays theme is homesick. We have advent calendars, daily devotions, for you to take home, all tied with the same theme. This weeks theme is Homesick. As Christian’s we are homesick for a place we haven’t lived yet, a place described for us, and promised to us, that looks very different from the world around us.
It’s the little things that matter, when you are homesick. Its the little things that matter when you are celebrating holidays in a different circumstance, a different country. When my sister was living and working Afghanistan, the cook staff knew that the few US Citizens would be missing thanksgiving with their families. They spent a considerable amount of time and energy procuring everything on their list of “traditional” thanksgiving food, including marshmallows for the sweet potato topping. Unfortunately there was an attack that morning and they were on lock-down so were unable to go get the turkey they found, but a thanksgiving side dish feast was certainly a beautiful taste of home and a touching effort by Muslim Afghans, many of who had never seen these foods. It would not be a traditional thanksgiving, but is was a beautiful glimpse of something they were missing.
Jesus talks about the new and different and growing and changing we see around us as signs – not of the end of the world but signs that the kingdom is at hand. The new and the different and the growing and changing always either cause us to be nostalgic for a past time, or excited to live in such a time as this. Either way, its a bit unsettling; but hat place we were created to live, that life god wanted for us, is just a breath away. Jesus is at the gates, as we say in Advent, this is the already but not yet. The kingdom is among us but not yet arrived in its fullness.
Martin Luther preached an advent sermon nearly 500 years ago that sounds very appropriate. “I do not wish to force any one to believe as I do; neither will I permit anyone to deny me the right to believe that the last day is near at hand. These words and signs of Christ compel me to believe that such is the case. For the history of the centuries that have passed since the birth of Christ nowhere reveals conditions like those of the present. There has never been such building and planting in the world.
There has never been such gluttonous and varied eating and drinking as now. Wearing apparel has reached its limit in costliness. Who has ever heard of such commerce as now encircles the earth? There have arisen all kinds of art and sculpture, embroidery and engraving, the like of which has not been seen during the whole Christian era.”
I firmly believe that every generation thinks they are living in the end time, every Generation thinks they are living in the most godless generation. But Every generation looks back on a simpler time, and the things that remind them of the comforts of home and family and traditions from the generation previous.
Jesus enters this world offering words, not of foreboding, but of hope to a homesick people that felt far away from God and longed to be close to kin in the middle of the crisis. “Stand up and raise your heads,” Jesus said, “because your redemption is near . . . So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near” Commentary on Luke 21:25-36 | by Elder Vilmarie Cintrón-Olivieri
When we are feeling unsettled by the world in which we live, Jesus challenges us to keep our heads up and keep alert, because there are signs of the kingdom all around us. There are signs of the reign of God, where justice and mercy are for all, and compassion is freely shown. Where those who live in bondages and those who suffer oppression are set free and all who live in guilt and fear are shown forgiveness.
The prophet Jeremiah talks about a dream and a promise, that his home will be restored, that they would be saved and live in a safe place. 6In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: “The Lord is our righteousness.” The Israelites were returned from the exile and their home restored, and their witness to God’s power provides hope for us who still await the promised kingdom. We live in a place that unfortunately does not resemble God’s kingdom, or share God’s administrative policies and practices. Advent both bids us remember why god came into our world in the first place – and assures us that he will return to make all things news and restore creation. Advent is a season of longing, yearning, waiting, and hoping – a season that looks at the reality of life and can name the pain and point out where the light is breaking in anyway.
It is in the glimpses of home, the glimpses of God’s reign among us, and Christ in our neighbor. The small acts of compassion and the holy spirits general habit of calling us out and calling us to action while empowering us to serve. The reflections of the light coming into this world that bounce off the folks we least expect to reflect Christ. This is where we see home, the place we’ve never experienced, the place we’ve never lived, but the place we were created for, the life we were made for.
But while I grew up in a loving home, with traditions and holidays and a sense of belonging – many did not. For so many in our world, home was not a safe place, home was not the place that they could retreat to, home was not welcoming or loving, and they did not feel like they belong. We’ll explore some of those themes around “home” further in this season.
“We celebrate the closeness of a God who chooses to dwell with us, while remembering what that closeness will cost: Jesus will face displacement, marginalization, suffering, and, ultimately, death. No matter if this season brings great comfort and joy, or hits a bit too close to home, may we remember that God is also just as close.” Rev. Lisle Gwynn Garrity, Founder, Creative Director of Sanctified Art.