The Beginning is Near: Advent 2017

The-Beginning-Is-Near“The good news of Jesus Christ—the Message!—begins here”                                                   The Gospel According to Saint Mark (from The Message)

If you’re anything like me, you probably wince every time you turn on the news, pick up a newspaper or scroll down through your social media newsfeed. What now? What has he who-must-not-be-named said or done now? What crisis is looming? Which of the four horses of the apocalypse now darkens the horizon?

Yes, we live in a time of perpetual crisis, which is perhaps driven by the 24/7 news cycle that floods our senses with constant “breaking news”. There is little doubt that the world is a scary place right now. To not sense this you would have to be living under a rock. There is climate change, economic uncertainty, rising racial tension, renewed nuclear proliferation, the return of fascism and growing threats to our democratic institutions. It’s enough to make you retreat to the comfort of your PJs, Netflix and the relative calm of the fantasy world of Game of Thrones.

But some historical perspective will tell us that the world has always been like this. Humanity has seen its share of violence, disease and despair. But some biblical perspective, as we bear witness to in Advent, tells us that the world will not always be like this.

Now at first glance, Advent may seem like just more doom and gloom. The Gospel reading for the First Sunday of Advent begins, “But in those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.” (Mark 13:24-25). This, though, is not the end of the story, but the beginning. Advent is not about the end of all things, but the true beginning of all things. Advent is about the arrival of Jesus. In fact, that is literally what the word Advent means – arrival.

The arrival of Jesus marks the end of the old ways of war, apathy, despair and hate, and the beginning of peace, hope, joy and love. For the early Christians this was good news or gospel. For them the season of Advent was about preparing for and participating in this arrival, this new way of being in the world. Liturgically we mark off this time differently. Advent marks the beginning of a new liturgical year, another new beginning. We light the Advent candles as we symbolically, week after week, light the lights of hope, peace, joy and love. This year at St. Mark’s we will mark the season of Advent with a brand new, locally sourced liturgy that draws on the wider church for inspiration (more about that later this week).

We also step up our waiting game in Advent. We are not just in the great waiting room of the universe, waiting for God to call our number in that last cosmic judgement. No, Advent waiting is a roll up your sleeves and get to work kind of waiting. At St. Mark’s we emphasize this active waiting in lots of ways: We collect gift cards for the Association for New Canadians, which they then distribute to immigrants and refugees experiencing their first year in a foreign country. We collect food to fill hampers for the hungry in our community. We gather with our neighbours from Logy Bay Manor, the Single Parent Association and Virginia Park Community Centre to share a Christmas meal together. Our Sunday School children will teach us about the important work of Team Broken Earth in Haiti and help us raise funds for this work. Our choir and band will visit the homes of parishioners who can’t get out to worship, bringing them the gift of joyful song and presence.

Saint Mark begins his Gospel by saying, “The good news of Jesus Christ…begins here.” Yes, it begins with Jesus but it also begins with us, right here and right now.  As Christians we are called not to linger too long at the manger, gazing at the infant Jesus, because he refuses to remain in this docile greeting card creation. Instead we are called to follow Christ into the busy streets and broken hearts of the world. We are called to proclaim, heal, forgive, serve and, most of all, love as Christ loved. We are called to follow Christ as he makes all things new.

Are you ready? This is only the beginning!