Earlier this month, we changed our clocks, and next week, we'll change our calendars--the traditional church calendars, that is. The non-festival part of the church year, Pentecost comes to a close and we focus on Christ's return. The new church year begins December 2 this year, the first Sunday of Advent, the season of anticipation of the birth of God Incarnate to save us from our carnal selves.
For this last week, our longing eyes are set heavenward, and our hearts pound faster and our breath grows shorter as we think of our Lord returning, as He pronounced it. (Mark 13:24-37). That whole discourse began 23 verses earlier when one of Jesus' disciples was openly admiring the beauty of the Jerusalem temple. "Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!"
That's when that disciple's "teacher" foretold of the destruction of the temple that came about 40 years later by the Roman soldiers. That was the occurrence that "this generation would not pass" before seeing. Forty years would have been the proper span of time. That same "teacher" sent the unrepentant generations of Israel to wander in the desert for 40 years, until their idol-worshipping generations had all died. Then the Lord would allow succeeding generations to pass into the Promised Land.
The destruction of the temple was necessitated because it was no longer needed. The Owner of the temple had come, but the boastful temple dwellers had rejected Him. New holy writings had to be written, and a new altar constructed with would contain the sacrifice for sin, this time given by God and not brought by men and women.
In Mark 13:24, Jesus (Yahweh in the flesh) had mocked the "gods" of the heathens in the Roman Empire. Just as God had humiliated Egypt's gods in the Ten Plagues (Exodus 7-11), we read how Jesus will return and will show His power over the things that the pagans then held as holy, including the sun and stars. He will destroy the earth that He created, the same earth that today's pagans worship. He will replace it with a new earth and a new heaven. (Revelation 21)
Jesus Christ is all that really matters. But just like that disciple, we believers tend to look to worldly measures of success. We are too often impressed with our displays of worship. Boasting in ourselves, we forget our total dependence on Him for our salvation. May we guard against reducing Him in our minds to a mere teacher. He is our Savior and He has given us the faith that has saved us.
As Jude wrote to his generation, his words (v.21) speak to us today. "Keep yourselves in the love of God and wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life." The next time you're outside on a cloudless night, look up and imagine all those stars falling, the heavens unrolling like a curtain, and the victorious Son of Man coming in glory to make all things right again. If your longing heart begins to ache too much, just pick out one bright star and imagine Bethlehem some 2,000 years ago. There's an Advent hymn that would be proper for this week or the next four, "O come, o come, Emmanuel..." (Gloria Deo--Glory to God)
Rev. Timothy Matthew is pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Kennett.