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. (Luke 21:25-28)
If you are a member of a church that honors the rhythm of the liturgical seasons, you know that we celebrated the beginning of Advent this past Sunday. The word “Advent” means “coming,” and the coming that this season begins with isn’t about Jesus’ first coming as a baby, but His second coming in “power and great glory” at the end of times.
On Sunday mornings, I lead a bible study for about 15-20 people. This past Sunday, after we read the scripture lesson above, I asked them for their thoughts and questions. The group was unusually quiet—the Apocalypse is indeed a hard subject for most of us to talk about.
In the hope of generating some discussion, I asked them to consider expanding their perspective on how the apocalypse can connect to their lives. Again, we were not getting much traction, so I decided to begin naming the times and occasions when it may have felt like their whole world had been turned upside down.
The apocalypse for one man and his wife was when he was diagnosed with cancer. They called in by Zoom from his hospital bed, and they were in isolation.
The apocalypse for one guy was when he was told that his services were no longer needed because he had nothing left to give.
The apocalypse for a woman came when she was so despaired of life that she attempted to take her own.
Because of the enormous care and trust in this group, I was able to name when they had gone through their own apocalypses, and I also shared how I had gone through my own “end-times” on a night this past July as I was told that my daughter, Anna, had just died.
As we pray into this Advent season, we need to see that besides Jesus’ first coming as a baby and His second coming to judge the whole world, there are also times when He comes to us each and every day with whatever we need.
Did any of the people I mentioned above have the strength to carry on during their own apocalyptic times? No. Do I have the strength to carry on during my own dark and painful time of losing my daughter? No. They were able to carry on, and I am carrying on because the Lord Jesus has been—and will always—come to us with the balm of His grace and the power of His love.
Through all the apocalypses we go through, through all the cancer diagnoses, deaths, suicidal thoughts, betrayals, mental health challenges, pains, griefs, and losses we experience, what do we most need? Hope.
Did you notice the tremendous hope Jesus proclaims in today’s reading? With the sun, the moon, and the stars spinning out of control, with distress among nations, and with fear and foreboding gripping people around the throat, Jesus says, “Stand up and raise your heads.”
In other words, “Even though things look bleak, have no fear because I am with you.”
In other words, “Even though you may not know how to live yet another day, cast your pain upon me, and I will lead you to another day.”
In other words, “No matter what you have done or not done in this life, my grace will carry you into the next one.”
In other words, “Give me your broken heart, and I will mend it. Invite me into your grief, and I will give you strength. Share your worries and anxieties with me, and I will give you peace through all the storms of life.”
What is the thread that weaves through Jesus’ first coming as a baby, His second coming to judge the world, and the myriad and mysterious ways He comes to us here and now? Love. A love that words can’t ever fully or completely describe. And because of that love, Jesus can say, “Stand up and raise your heads.”
- What does the Second Coming of Jesus say or mean to you?
- What does the First Coming of Jesus say or mean to you?
- How have you experienced how Jesus has come to you between His first and second comings? How are you experiencing His presence right now in your life?