Sunday December 2, 2018
1 Thessalonians 3:9-13
and Luke 21:25-36
We just heard these words of Jesus from the gospel according to Luke, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”
Well, dear Lord Jesus, these are words I can only hold on to as dearly as possible these days. I can only hold on to them for dear life, in fact. It’s a promise that exposes all false promises. It’s a promise that keeps us going. Yes, it’s a promise that keeps me preaching. However, this knowledge does not make it necessarily less difficult to cope. Dear friends, do you feel the same?
On this first Sunday of Advent, moving into the season of Advent, we know ahead of time just how much will pass away these next four weeks. It will happen quickly. Everything we anticipate, for which we plan, what we try to take in, will be gone in a mere month. This urges us to attempt to hang on to these moments with tried and true methods. We will take photographs, videos, maybe even some journalling or scrapbooking, all the while realising that even these go-to ways of keeping memories will themselves one day pass away.
Nothing lasts forever.
And yet, perhaps there is no other time that this is felt more deeply than during the Christmas holidays, the sense of everything being so very fleeting, the mindfulness that nothing lasts forever. Our attempts to remember events are also the means by which we cope with this inevitable loss. It is the sense that this moment in time can never be repeated in time, ever again.
There are times that this sense is brought about by an awareness of “lasts” that mark this time of the year. Think for example of the last Christmas before a child goes to university or college, the last Christmas with a dying loved one, the last Christmas before an impending divorce. You know what I mean. But what is hard about anticipating the events of the coming month is realising just how many of these moments are packed into 30 days. That is a lot of holding on to the now, all the while knowing that it will all pass away. That is a lot of energy spent knowing the truth, that nothing lasts forever. Nonetheless at the same time we are doing our best to deny it or at least postpone everything that is disappearing.
During the rest of the year, of course, we also know this feeling, the events are mercifully more spread out. Marriages come and go. Jobs come and go. Governments come and go. Leaders come and go. Fads come and go. People come and go. That’s life, isn’t it? But that doesn’t make it any easier when you find yourself right in the middle of millions of places and spaces that are so fleeting.
Advent is a rather curious and even complex season in the church year. The seasons of the church year might all be. It might be, however, that we do not fathom the depths of the times in the church year as much as we can, and perhaps should. The place where you and I are at, each year a season like advent comes around, always determines what you see.
What do you see this Advent season? For me, “heaven and earth will pass away” hit me very hard, as you probably have already picked up by what I’ve already said. I could do with a little more permanency in my life these days. It really makes it uncomforatble to know that nothing stays the same.
Sitting in that discomfort for a bit made me recognise that “heaven and earth will pass away” speaks to an aspect of Advent that I had not thought about much before: that Advent counteracts temporariness with promise. Advent does not let the transience of life take over our hearts but fills our souls with something very special. Into the passing nature of life, Advent brings the hope of eternity.
Nothing lasts forever—except Jesus’ words, the Word, will not pass away. What does it mean to hear this promise in the midst of impermanency? For starters, I think, it means that hope really can matter. It feels like confidence amidst shifting sands. It makes life different because it changes your perspective. You start looking for the lastingness and finding it in the most unexpected places.
Finally, in the end, Advent anticipates the one event that upended “nothing lasts forever” forever. When God decided to become flesh, God took on temporariness so as to give us eternal life. God took on our transiency to give us a permanent home with God. God took on certain mortality to give us resurrection. Because, with God, forever means forever. Amen
From a Reflection by the same title, written on November 25, 2018 by Karoline Lewis on www.workingpreacher.org
Copyright 2018 – Heinrich Grosskopf, Minister of Dayspring Presbyterian Church
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