The End or the Beginning

First Sunday of Advent

Jeremiah 33:14-16

The days are coming, says the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and Judah. In those days, in that time, I will raise up for David a just shoot ; he shall do what is right and just in the land. In those days Judah shall be safe and Jerusalem shall dwell secure; this is what they shall call her: “The LORD our justice.”

1 Thessalonians 3:12-4:2

Brothers and sisters: May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we have for you, so as to strengthen your hearts, to be blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones. Amen. Finally, brothers and sisters, we earnestly ask and exhort you in the Lord Jesus that, as you received from us how you should conduct yourselves to please God and as you are conducting yourselves you do so even more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus.

Luke 21:25-28, 34-36

Jesus said to his disciples: “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on earth nations will be in dismay, perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand. “Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise like a trap. For that day will assault everyone who lives on the face of the earth. Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.”

The typical readings during Advent are often filled with terrifying images of “fire and brimstones” and various scenarios about how the world will end. If we only interpret these passages literally, then, no doubt our hearts will be consumed by confusion and fear. However, these readings are a double-edged sword that, on the one hand, jolts us out of complacency through terrifying and severe warnings; on the other, leads us into an inward journey of self-examination and, in the process, remembering God’s faithfulness. Hidden in these catastrophic scenes are encouragement and opportunities that lead us to a genuine transformation in Christ. Therefore, Advent is not solely about the end but also the beginning of something amazing and unimaginable.

This week’s 1st and 2nd Readings, Jeremiah’s prophetic words and Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians offer advice that anchors us in hope and strength amidst all the disasters and despair portrayed by Luke. In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus brings his listeners’ attention to the “signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars” and warns them that they will be “confused” and “faint from fear […] for the powers of the heavens will be shaken” (Lk 21:25-26). Contrary to these terrifying occurrences, Paul blesses the Thessalonians, and all of us, that they (and we) be “abound in love for one another and for all” (1 Th 3:12). The Psalmist reminds us that only God is our “salvation” and that his paths are “steadfast love and faithfulness” (Ps 25:5, 10). Both the Psalmist and Paul affirm God’s faithfulness and that God’s love for us surpasses all fear and confusion caused by earthly disasters, for in times of trials, God will “strengthen [our] hearts in holiness” (1Th 3:13). When our hearts are “weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life”, we must turn to God and implore, “Make me to know your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths” (Ps 25:4).

On the last day, God will fulfill His promise “made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah”, that the Son of Man will come to “execute justice and righteousness in the land” (Jer 33:14-15). Jesus teaches us that since we do not know when that day may arrive, we must “be alert at all times” and pray for strength to make the right choices (Lk 21:36). Paul explains that we must be “blameless” before God and live in ways that are pleasing to God (1 Th 3:13).

Advent prompts us to remember the love and faithfulness of God on the one hand, and challenges us how we “ought to live and to please God” on the other (1 Th 4:1). In other words, it invites each one of us to walk the extra miles down the path of genuine transformation in Christ. All the teachings and warnings about end times and the coming of the Son of Man are not solely about the end; they also teach us how to live: reflectively, intentionally, prayerfully, faithfully, and lovingly.

During Advent, may we have the strength to face our inner darkness; may we have the courage to approach God, shameless and with hearts wide open. May God bless us all during Advent as we prepare for the coming of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Posted: December 2, 2018

Susanna Mak

Susanna深信,信仰需要在日常生活中顯露出來,尤其是當與別人相處時,需要分擔對方所面對的困境、抉擇和挑戰。她有着很多不同的身份:女兒、姐姐、朋友、姨姨、妻子、老師、校牧、終身學習者和偶爾替《生命恩泉》寫作的作者。在每一個身份當中, 她努力為天主的愛和希望作見証。 她在多倫多擔任高中教師近二十年,擁有英語、學生讀寫能力、青年領袖活動、校牧組等經驗。 她是多倫多大學商業和英語學士,教育學士,亞省Athabasca大學綜合研究碩士,以及擁有多倫多大學Regis學院神學研究碩士證書。她對於成為《生命恩泉》寫作團隊的一份子, 深感榮幸。 Susanna has a deep conviction that faith needs to be manifested in daily life, particularly, in one’s encounters with others as well as amidst dilemmas, choices, and challenges. She strives to be a living sign of God’s love and hope as a daughter, sister, friend, aunt, wife, teacher, chaplain, life-long learner, and occasional writer for FLL. She has been a high school teacher in Toronto for almost 20 years, with experiences in English and literacy, youth leadership initiatives, the Chaplaincy Team, to mention a few. She has a B. Comm, B.A. in English, and a B. Education from University of Toronto, an M.A. in Integrated Studies from Athabasca University, and a Graduate Certificate of Theological Studies from Regis College, U of T. She is humbled by the opportunity to be part of the FLL Writing Team.

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