By Brayton Shanley-
The first Sunday of Advent’s gospel from Luke reads “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and upon the earth distress of nations in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and waves. People fainting with fear, with foreboding of what is coming upon the world.” (Lk 21:25-26).
People of faith have always been looking for “signs,” predictors of what is to come. In Luke, the signs are apocalyptic, end time images of astral disasters, the most terrifying of forebodings. In Luke’s time apocalypse literally meant the end of life, yielding to the second coming of Jesus.
These forebodings are found throughout the Bible, dire warnings of catastrophe unless we change. This Advent we may not be expecting the second coming but forebodings today could not be more real; our earth and our nations are in catastrophic distress and a “great perplexity at the roaring of the seas.”
The recent UN report on climate change is a prophecy of “what is coming upon the world.” More accurately stated for today the report might read: “What we as Americans are bringing upon our world, addicted to burning fossil fuels every minute of every day, combined with this dangerous earth destroying man in the White House.” They all spell a foreboding of doom. The question is: Will we turn from the inevitable apocalypse to a complete change in lifestyle… now? Will we listen to the cry of the prophets of the Old Testament who tirelessly proclaim, turn from you selfish unjust ways… now? If we fail to heed the prophets warning we will continue to spend tens of billions of dollars on each wildfire, every hurricane, continual extreme weather events that have become the “new abnormal” as Governor Jerry Brown predicts.
If we delay in turning from our rampant materialism, we could lose the vital ecological balance of our coral reefs throughout the oceans foreshadowing the beginning of the end of life on this dear and wondrous earth.
Advent has always presented a paradox: both reckoning and promise. Reckoning is the price we have paid and will pay for our wrong conduct. The Advent reading from Jeremiah is a promise made from Yahweh to the faithful; “I will raise up a righteous branch (and) that branch will execute justice and righteousness in the land” (Jer. 33:15). Righteous, “sedek” in the Hebrew, means “the honest truth.” This Advent 2018 demands that we step down from our lavish, expensive and carbon- glutted lifestyles, to simple living truth: divest, simplify, trust in God to provide. Begin this Christmas season: stop trying to find meaning in buying things even for loved ones.
The second pillar of Advent is promise. Jesus is coming to rescue us. There is something indispensable about what the coming of Jesus can do for us in these times. So we must wait, patiently, on the merciful love that is coming. However Jesus cannot truly arrive inside of us if we are denying or are blind to the ecological dangers of our getting and spending lifestyles.
Let us pray ceaselessly this Advent to see the light in the darkness: pray in gratitude that we do indeed have a Prince of Peace who is coming. May we stand confident in this expectation: the coming of the All Merciful and Compassionate One, soon and very soon.