Isaiah 64:1-9; Psalm 80:1-7, 16-18; 1 Corinthians 1:3-9; Mark 13:24-37
“When the sky falls we’ll catch larks.” – Irish Proverb
Advent has arrived again. The word “Advent” means “coming.” In this season we anticipate and long for the coming of Christ. We routinely each year celebrate Advent again and again. This is because Christ comes again and again. Certainly, we may at this time of year consider Christ’s definitive coming at the end of time. This is so because in today’s Gospel Jesus speaks of cosmic activity of the sun, moon and stars (Mark 13:24-25). The sky is literally falling. And Jesus says that all this will happen before his own generation passes away (Mark 13). If this passage is indeed talking about the end of time, Jesus was mistaken. Many generations have come and gone since he spoke those words, with no apparent end in sight. However, if all this talk about the sky falling is metaphoric language for hard times, then Jesus was not mistaken. Hard times, accompanied by the feeling that our world is falling apart, our sun and moon no longer shine, a depressed state of emotional cosmic destruction, happens in every generation, in the life of each of us. This may be caused by loss of a job, a divorce, a public embarrassment, a sickness, a death or a failure. The ways and means by which our stars fall are endless. The good news is that this very darkness itself is a sign that Christ is coming to us now, not just at the end of time (Mark 13:29). He is now at the very door of our dark nights, at the gates of our depression. (See Greek below) It is a paradox that our very darkness is a sign of hope. We pray about this every Advent again and again, because cosmic gloominess is with us again and again, causing us to yearn for more. With the Son of Man at our side we witness the cosmic destruction turn into a comic Spring; and we laugh and are surprised by joy. The tables are turned. The joke is on the powers of darkness, not on us. The death of one thing brings something new. It may be a new social order such as the Arab Spring. (But remember, even the Arab Spring at times had it coming winter. Thus the cycle again and again.) It may be a personal new lease on life. This Advent let us slow down, in spite of the holiday rush, and listen. We hear him coming. Hark, the lark sings again!
Mark 13:33, in all translations, has: we do not know when the time “will” come, as if it is in the future. This is a correct translation if we are thinking only of the end of the world. However, the original Greek uses the present tense: we do not know when the time “is.” This is a common Greek mode of expression to speak of the future and the present moment at the same time. The sky may fall at the end of time, but my sky is falling right now. The same is true of Mark 13:35 in saying we do not know when the master or lord of the house “will” come. The Greek simply says “is” come.
When my sky turns dark,
at my window sings a lark:
I am come for Spring.