First Sunday of Advent  |  Mark 13:24-37


This Sunday marks the beginning of Advent. We are all waiting for Christmas. For some, it’s the season to remember the coming of the Messiah. For others, it’s a time of waiting for Santa, or for the food and gifts of Hanukkah. Some people, let’s call them the Grinch faction, just wait for it to be over.Mary and Joseph 001

And soon it will be. We’ll hear Christmas carols, shop for presents and wonder whether we’ll receive any, and one day, suddenly, it will be over. We’ll take down the decorations and wait for spring.

Most things are suddenly over. Birthdays are like that. Holidays. Stories.

Mark’s Gospel is like that. Originally it ended with this:

And having gone out, they fled from the tomb, for trembling and ecstasy held them, and they said nothing to anyone for they were afraid.

It’s a sudden ending, leaving the readers wanting more. Later someone added more verses to the Gospel, maybe trying to round out the story or smooth out the ending. Mark’s original ending is just as it should be, though. Fear and trembling and ecstasy were appropriate. That’s precisely where Jesus took them; it may be where God takes us.

The lectionary gives us a different passage from Mark to reflect on for Advent: verses from the Little Apocalypse, a portion of Mark’s Gospel that talks of the end of the world. That, too, will happen suddenly, according to this passage. Maybe the idea is to remember the first coming of God into the world by anticipating the next.

HorsebackAheadSo is the emphasis to be on waiting? Or are we to abandon our homes and gather our families on mountaintops, thinking that “suddenly” means “soon”?

In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus tells his followers that they will know the end of the world is near by certain signs, but then he tells them, “Truly I say to you that this generation will not have passed away before all these things have taken place.”

What? All those signs indicating the end of the world, and they had already come true two thousand years ago? Does that mean that the end is nigh? Past nigh? Is the crazy man with the sign right, after all?

Sure. As the fundamentalists are fond of saying, we are all living in the last days. But so has everybody else who ever lived.

That’s the point, or one of them.

We don’t know our last day. We don’t know when it will be over, whatever “it” may be. This world. Our lives. The universe. Any of it. That doesn’t mean that we should cower in the corner, worried and watching for angels or meteors or exploding suns. Or an accident. Or cancer.

The end is nigh. Don’t waste your life waiting for it. Go out and live.

Pay attention, Jesus is saying to his followers. This is what we have, and if we look, we’ll see the signs that it is all passing by us. At its worst, it’s amazing. At its best, it’s ecstasy. So go live, and pay attention, because suddenly it will be over.