Can you feel in your bones that winter is coming? It’s not just the colder temperatures. In Utah the leaves are off the trees, the sun is rising and setting father south, and most of the birds have left for warmer places. We don’t know how much snow we’ll get, but these signs make it clear that a new season is coming.
Jesus said we should be watching for signs that the times are changing, like “distress among the nations” and “fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world.” (Luke 21:25) “Look at the fig tree and all the trees,” he said. “As soon as they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near.”
The problem is that he said those things two thousand years ago, and signs like “fear and foreboding” have been our constant companions ever since. Long ago the prophet Jeremiah said, “The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made... I will cause a righteous branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.” (Jer 33:14) The Good News: The Messiah is coming! The Other News: That promise was made hundreds of years before Jesus, and we’re still waiting to see “justice and righteousness in the land.”
In the world around us, the focus is on the Thanksgiving holiday, a weekend of feasting and football and Christmas shopping. Oddly enough, we’re celebrating the beginning of a new church year, the start of the season of Advent (“arrival”). We always begin this new cycle with promises and prayers: the promise that the world will become more like God wants it to be, and the prayer that God’s people will do their part.
The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that will happen to us; we need to be more than passive spectators. Here’s how Paul said it: ‘You know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep... the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.” (Rom 13:11)
Our world is broken and troubled, and we know that changing it won’t be comfortable or easy. The forces of darkness are widespread and powerful; we’ll need to join together to resist them. The Gospel encourages us to “be alert at all times” and pray for strength. With God’s help, united in our Beloved Community, protected by the armor of light, we can do our parts to make God’s kingdom come “on earth, as it is in heaven.”