Portents of the end of everything doesn’t sound much like a Christmas story, does it? This year the lectionary starts Advent off with a bang by not so much predicting an apocalypse but making sure we understand what the signs of its appearance will be. Luke’s Gospel tells us that the skies will burst and the countries of the world, all the nations, will be in anguish. People will be anxious and despairing. Everything will be shaken to its core. The next sign, the one that would be hard to miss, according to Luke’s Gospel and the book of Daniel, will be Jesus riding on a cloud and shining with all his glory. You would especially pay attention if you saw this because, according to this Gospel, it would signal the entrance of a new world.
In Jesus’ day, living in his world meant being part of the Roman Empire; an empire with extreme income inequality, and oppressive forces pushing down both on the poor and the foreign-born. The new world this passage envisions, is one where the poor will not be hungry, equality and compassion will rule and everything hopeful will be revealed in every corner of every street everywhere. Another way of imaging this can be stated this beautiful way: “Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.” (Arundhati Roy)
The apocalypse, then, signals not only an end but also a beginning. According to the book of Revelation it will herald a time when the world will change dramatically…for the good, for the just, for the end of sorrow, for the defeat of greed and the end to all those things that keep people from seeing each other as they are. The new world will truly be a Just World for All!
The birth we anticipate, the baby in the manger, is a glimpse of that new world…the hope of all. It is the great purpose of the church to be a place where we can hear the breathing of that new world. The world outside our congregations might feel hopeless. It may feel like evil powers are in control disregarding human beings, creating an order that feeds on greed and corruption and the extremes of inequality. But the church as the body of Christ houses hope itself. It’s here, where we worship, that love is made visible, especially those three loves that the UCC holds dear: Love of Neighbor, Love of Children, Love of Creation. This Advent be mindful of how making love visible recharges our communities with possibility and infuses our world with resilience in times of trouble. This is the great work of the church–to make Christ visible, always.