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Watching the Cloudy Skies December 3, 2008

Posted by dan snyder in art, Bible: New Testament, Jesus Christ.
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When you were a child, what were the first signs that clued-you-in that Christmas was coming?

For my dad, who grew up in the 40’s, it was that he saw smoke coming out of the chimney’s. For my mom, it wasn’t until the day before Christmas when the Christmas Tree made it’s way into the living room that she new Christmas was upon them. In my childhood it was Thanksgiving Dinner at Grandma’s that ushered in the holiday’s.

What about this year? What are you watching for that let you know the Season is here? Or perhaps, the signs just burst into your life whether your ready and watching or not!

The disciples of Jesus ask him to tell them what the sign(s) of his return will be. And included in his answer is the text for this week, Mark 13:24-37

24“But in those days, following that distress,
” ‘the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light;
25the stars will fall from the sky,
and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’

26“At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27And 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”

As I read through Mark 13 (and other such apocalyptic passages) I get the impression that Jesus is pretty excited about his return. As this passage continues, he says that no one except the Father really knows when this return will happen, but this doesn’t really seem to concern Jesus. It seems that he’s okay not knowing as long as the there is the assurance that his Father knows. I suppose we should be as satisfied.

But it seems that the return of Jesus is not so exciting to contemporary people. With the exception of a few fundamentalist TV preachers who have an almost overly enthusiastic sense of urgency, most people I meet are hoping it will happen but suppose that it won’t happen like – tomorrow!

Maybe this is because year after year at Advent, we talk about the the Coming of Jesus and then it never happens. But the Gospel Writers like Mark aren’t really biting their nails over the fact. PROBABLY BECAUSE THE COMING OF JESUS IS NOT SO MUCH AN EVENT AS IT IS A HOPE. I’m not saying that I don’t believe that Jesus won’t ‘literally’ return one day. But the ‘relevant living’ theology is that Jesus gives us signs that will help us know that his coming is very close – signs that are practical for today!

In verses prior to those in our text, Jesus says that one of the signs will be that the Temple (which the disciples found to be very impressive – v.1) will be torn down. There were times in Jewish History when the Temple became more sacred, provided more security, and gave a greater sense of identity than the God of the Temple. The building and its ethos was their strength, hope, wisdom, power, wealth, etc., – things that should have been found in God alone.

What are your Temples?

When our Temples are crumbling – when strengths become our weaknesses – Jesus said, “[Now] you will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.” When you’ve tried everything you know to do, when you’ve run out of options, when you’ve exhausted all possibilities, and you throw your hands in the air in surrender – Jesus says, “YES! I am coming to you in your deepest need. Now you’re ready!”

Some people stand in piles of rubble – their Temples have crumbled all around them – and they keep trying, they won’t give up. Little do they know, they have no room for Jesus. If they would only surrender their Temple, Jesus could bring his great power and the glory of his Name to their situation.

One thing Jesus says about these signs is that you won’t miss them. It will be like the darkening of the sun and moon and the falling of stars. Everyone will know the time is near. How about your life, your neighborhood, your nation, your world? Is it dark enough yet for you to see that your Temples aren’t working? When you become (self)aware of the desperate situation around you which makes you cry out to Jesus for help – then he will come with great power and glory.

Sometimes we don’t recognize that our Temples are working because our vision is puny compared to what God hopes to do. And, so, we keep on doing small things thinking we’re doing okay. But the kingdom never grows because we’re using the rubble of our Temples to build it with our strength. We need to see the marvel of the Kingdom before we’ll admit that we’re too small, too weak to build it.

So what do you want for Christmas? What do you need for Christmas?

If your answer is anything less than the power and glory that is found in the Person of Jesus Christ then you’ll always be disappointed. These are tough times – relationships, finances, sickness and death are wearing us all down. If there was ever a time we needed Jesus to come to us, it’s now.

Take a few minutes and meditate on this painting by Salvador Dali of The Girl Stand at the Window. As you imagine yourself in the painting, reflect on your sense of urgency and hope as you look to the clouds.

Salvador Dali, The Girl Standing at the Window (1925)

Salvador Dali, The Girl Standing at the Window (1925)

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