By Rev. Magrey R. deVega
Senior Pastor, Hyde Park United Methodist ChurchTampa, Florida
““There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.””
Luke 21:25-28 NIV
“Now when these things begin to happen, stand up straight and raise your heads, because your redemption is near.”
If there is anything we learn about the Kingdom of God in the gospels, it is that looks can be deceiving. A savior is born in a manger, rather than in a royal bed. Jars of water become a sommelier’s delight in the wedding at Cana. A mustard seed becomes an atrium for birds.
Consider the stories that bookend the scripture reading for today. At the outset of Luke 21, we hear the famous story of the poor widow whose minute gift to the Temple actually made a greater impact on the kingdom – and a bigger impression on Jesus – then the large sums contributed by the fat cats. And in Luke 22, we see the surprising and cryptic institution of the Lord’s Supper, in which Jesus told the disciples that he will be present with them through ordinary bread and wine.
In other words, where the Kingdom of God is involved, there is always deeper meaning below the surface.
It should be no surprise, then, that sandwiched in between the poor widow and the Last Supper is this challenge and admonition from Jesus, in which he urges the disciples to pay attention to the signs. Look up and see the sun, moon, and stars. Look around you and see the brokenness of the earth. Look within you and notice your own fear and foreboding.
It is not difficult to find our own entry point into this story. After all, we cannot help but do what Jesus is asking here. Our news headlines are filled with the kinds of stories that Jesus must have imagined when he first spoke these words. This is a world filled with hurt and heartache. Darkness seems to prevail at every corner and there are a lot of people fainting from “fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world.”
But verse 28, once again, pushes us to see below the surface: “Now when these things begin to happen, stand up straight and raise your heads, because your redemption is near.”
Sure, Jesus. Whatever. When times are tough and the world is falling apart, the last thing we feel like doing is hold our head up high and claim that there are better days ahead. This is completely antithetical to our instincts, and utterly contradictory to the evidence around us. When life is the pits, there is little reason for hope.
But that is precisely Jesus’ point. When there is no reason for hope,that is exactly when the hope of God’s promise and restoration begins to bloom. When we least expect it, when we are fixated only on the surface, when all appears lost, when light has failed and darkness has prevailed …
… that’s when the Kingdom of God is ready to be revealed. In a manger. In a savior. In hope.
Perhaps there is a word here for you. Maybe this Advent season catches you utterly winded, and really unable to see any possibility of anything other than bumps in the road, thorns in your patch, and scars on your soul. If that’s so, then hang in there. A messiah has been promised whose deliverance and restoration will bloom from the most unexpected sources.
So watch, wait, and hope.
1) When has there been a time when God has surprised you?
2) For what reasons might you be longing and hoping for deliverance and redemption?
3) How might joining together with others in community strengthen you for the journey ahead?