Excerpted from The Heart of the Work, an Advent Guide for Lectionary Year B from the North Carolina Council of Churches.
But in those days, following that distress,
the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light;
the stars will fall from the sky,
and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.
At that time people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.
Apocalypse means unveiling or uncovering. This word is well-suited to the realities of 2020. This year, our eyes and hearts have been uncovered. The deep pain of 2020 is a result of our broken relationships with all of God’s Creation—including each other. Right now, we are looking at the world with clear eyes.
As COVID-19 began to make its mark on our country, with millions contracting the virus alongside a shortage of tests and Personal Protection Equipment, we saw clearly that our healthcare system needs reforming. Following the murders of Ahmaud Arbury, Sean Reed, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd, we saw clearly the need to proclaim and affirm that Black Lives Matter. As fires raged across our west coast, burning more than 500,000 acres and causing the same number of people to evacuate their homes in Oregon, we saw clearly the need to address climate change in bold ways. Over the past few months, our eyes and hearts have been uncovered. What we do with this “2020 vision” matters—which brings us to Mark’s passage today, “The Little Apocalypse.”
On this first Sunday of the Advent season we receive an apocalyptic telling of Christ’s second coming. In the context of Advent this story invites us to imagine our “collective uncovering” and the work we are called to do. Advent invites us to prepare our hearts and minds for the coming of Jesus. We prepare ourselves to welcome the Christ child that the inns and hostels of Bethlehem would not. We prepare ourselves to make room for the kind of love and hope that Jesus embodies that the world often ignores. This preparation is work that our world desperately needs.
The world needs us to speak boldly and act lovingly. The world needs us to see clearly the ways we have harmed each other and imagine possibilities for repairing that harm. The world needs us to be broken open by pain. We must commit to this work together.
Loving God, help us to use our sharpened vision, our eyes that have been uncovered, for the good of all your Creation. With clearness of sight, help us to act as beacons of love, peace, and justice. As we prepare our hearts for the coming of the Christ child, help us also to prepare our hands to hold each other up and our feet to carry us on the journey. May we love as you have taught us to love. Amen.