Written by Pastor Ed
Let It Be
December 3, 2017 Advent I
Isaiah 64: 1-9
Mark 13: 24-37
If you are of a certain generation, the first thing that comes to your mind when you see the theme for this year’s Advent meditation is this:
Let It Be – Beatles
There has always been some controversy about that song, because while Paul’s mother was in fact named Mary, the reference could also be to Mary, the mother of Jesus. And in fact, the writers of the worship material take the phrase from Mary’s response to the angel who told her that she was going to be part of God’s plan by bearing a son. Her reply, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38b)
“Let it be”, or as one writer put it, “Bring it on” is an expression of willingness to participate in whatever comes, or whatever the plan may be. Even the Beatles recognized that in times of trouble or uncertainty, it was important to look forward to an answer, words of wisdom, or the light that shines in the darkness.
Advent is about waiting, not only waiting to celebrate the coming birth of Jesus, but waiting to participate in God’s plans for the future, whether that was Mary waiting for the birth of Jesus or God’s ongoing plan for the future. How do we wait? Do we see any light ahead, or is it only darkness? Do we wish that God would “tear the heavens open and come down” and fix things or are we content to see what happens, and just “let it be?”
The 13th chapter of Mark is often called the little apocalypse, as it uses language similar to the book of Revelation and points to future events. Yet there is a certain ambiguity about what Jesus says. On the one hand it sounds like this is something that is going to happen very soon , “this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place.” (13:30) And yet at other times Jesus says no one knows when this will happen, so you just have to keep awake.
It’s an interesting dilemma. How should we think about that coming? One of the commentators I read put it this way:
“In today’s church, many Christians seem to think, “Since the time of Jesus’ coming cannot be known, we need not think much about it.” Mark draws the opposite conclusion: since the timing is unknown, we should think about it all the time!
Modern Christians often think, “Since the time is unknown, it could be hundred, or thousands, or millions of years from now.” Mark draws a very different conclusion: since the timing is unknown, it could be today! Maybe this evening, or at midnight, or when dawn breaks.
But does anyone actually think that way? Does anyone go through every day, wondering at morning, noon, and night if now is the time that someone long gone might return?
Yes. People who are in love do that.”
And that, he suggests may be the best metaphor to use for elsewhere Mark and others use the image of the bridegroom coming to the feast to talk about Jesus’ return. When we anticipate someone’s coming we often develop a grand scheme of what it’s going to be like.
A year ago Friday a group of us were waiting at the Calgary airport for the arrival of a family from Syria. We knew their names and ages, but very little else and yet I’m sure all of us had some image of what it would be like and perhaps even some ideas of how the next year would unfold. As we celebrated Mannal’s birthday on Friday evening, I had to reflect on how things had changed in the course of the year.
In the same way that we anticipate the arrival of someone we love, or perhaps the arrival of a new baby, we develop a grand scheme. Just like the woodworker who has an idea for a project, we develop a picture in our minds of what it will be like, of how things might be different, and we’re ready for it to happen. Who hasn’t had a situation where you developed a grand scheme of what life would be like in the future, if only such and such would happen. It doesn’t always turn out that way, but that’s next week’s theme. In the same way, we have an idea of God’s kingdom and Christ’s coming.
Whether we find ourselves in times of trouble, or whether we simply look around us at a world that seems at times to be falling apart, we have an idea of what that future kingdom of God looks like. There are the images from Revelation of streets of gold and everlasting day. Or there are the images from the prophets of the peaceable kingdom where everybody gets along and even natural predators live in harmony with their prey.
But we also know that we’re not there yet. Jesus said there would be all kinds of terrible things happening before his coming and so there are. The plans are still on the drawing board, or maybe even only in our imaginations. And yet we know that the timing is in God’s hands and not in ours. We know that God has a plan, and has acted in the past. And we anticipate God’s acting in the future. We may long for God to come and fix things, as the prophet did, but it’s not ours to control. Rather, Jesus says, “Keep awake.”
Now we often think of that as a future direction. But someone has suggested that a better way to think of that instruction would be to say, “be present.” That it, with the coming of Jesus at Bethlehem, God’s plan for the future has been put into motion. God is already active in the world. So rather than only waiting for some future event, let’s be present in the here and now and see where God is at work around us. Let’s be part of God’s plan now, already living in harmony and helping right the injustices of the world.
Let’s speak those words of wisdom, shine a light in the darkness, and be present in the here and now even as we await Christ’s coming. And if we join in God’s work now, we will be ready, awake, prepared for Christ’s coming whenever it may be. Then we, along with Mary can respond, “Yes, let it be.”