“Learn this parable from the fig tree. After its branch becomes tender and it sprouts new leaves, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see these things happening, you know that he’s near, at the door. I assure you that this generation won’t pass away until all these things happen. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will certainly not pass away.
“But nobody knows when that day or hour will come, not the angels in heaven and not the Son. Only the Father knows. Watch out! Stay alert! You don’t know when the time is coming. It is as if someone took a trip, left the household behind, and put the servants in charge, giving each one a job to do, and told the doorkeeper to stay alert. Therefore, stay alert! You don’t know when the head of the household will come, whether in the evening or at midnight, or when the rooster crows in the early morning or at daybreak. Don’t let him show up when you weren’t expecting and find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to all: Stay alert!” – Mark 13:28-37 (CEB)
In Advent, we like to get the bad news out of the way as soon as possible. The lectionary always begins with one of the little apocalypses of Jesus: a teaching toward the end of his life about the destruction of the Temple and what will follow. Each year, Advent begins with rumors of wars, earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, fires, and famine. Mark doesn’t mention them, but mass shootings, terrorist attacks, police violence, election anxiety, and pandemics are probably included, too.
Like our reading from Mark, Advent leads us to the darkest day of the year. Like some of you personally, or people you care about, the winter brings extra struggles with depression. Depression and anxiety are at all-time highs right now. Each of us is struggling with our own difficulties or helping to carry the burden of suffering for others. Our prayers seem to be on repeat.
Most of us feel like this Advent started long before today and we’re tired. This last year has been ten years long and it feels like this really is the Advent of Christ’s return. This text in Mark is probably one of the last we’d want to hear right now, but what do we do with this text before us other than nod and agree and wonder when it will end?
If we can hear it, in the midst of all the doom and gloom, Jesus offers us a message of hope. Jesus has told us everything ahead of time. He tells us that we already possess the knowledge of hope. We know the signs of it. We need to be looking for it. Jesus tells us not to put our head in the sand or run around declaring that the sky is falling.
We are the watchers of hope.
We are the ones that proclaim it to others.
We are the ones that keep awake.
Apocalypse means revelation, the unveiling of things not previously known. What might God be trying to reveal to us in the midst of the turmoil? How do we avoid falling asleep, keeping awake for how God’s dreams might be unfolding in our lives? What is God calling us to stay alert to this Advent?
Our theme for Advent this year is Those Who Dream. It comes from the opening verse of Psalm 126:
When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream.
Psalm 126 is one of the Psalms of Ascent. These psalms are the dreams restored of those who had been in exile and are once again able to come into the presence of the Lord. This represented more than a physical place of worship, but also the restoration of a beloved community, exchanging tears for shouts of joy, and finding God’s shalom.
In this way, we too, are like those who dream.
We dream of the beloved Kingdom where suffering and injustice no longer exist. We dream of all nations beating our swords into plowshares. We dream of wholeness and well-being. We dream of racial justice and the end of gender discrimination. We dream of being healed from the hate and division in our country. We dream of greater economic equality. We dream of effective education and opportunity for all children — and that not one more would experience a shooting at school. We dream of affordable healthcare and a living wage. We dream of a vaccine, its distribution, and the ability to be in the company we love without risk and fear.
These are not the dreams of those who sleep, their subconscious roaming around into an often nonsensical and distorted version of our life. No, the dreams we dream are the dreams of those who keep awake, searching for the hope we know is real. In today’s text, Jesus cautions us not to fall sleep, letting our anxiety about the present replace our dreams of hope. For we believe
From ages past no one has heard,
no ear has perceived,
no eye has seen any God besides you,
who works for those who wait for the Lord.
We are those who dream. Not because we cannot accept reality, but because we refuse to be content with it. With hope, let us keep awake together.We are those who dream. Not because we cannot accept reality, but because we refuse to be content with it. #hope #Advent #ComeLordJesusCome Click To Tweet
Faithful God, we join the voices of those who have gone before us with mouths filled with laughter and tongues bearing shouts of joy because you have done great things for us. Yet, we are still ones that dream of the restoration and wholeness you have yet to grant us. Teach us to keep awake to your presence in our lives. May we rejoice in the hope we have yet to fully know. Come, Lord Jesus, come! Amen. (with Psalm 126)
 Psalm 126:1 (NRSV)
 Isaiah 64:4 (NRSV)