Advent translated from Latin means coming. It is a time when we look forward, but what is it we are looking forward to. Actually, it is a couple of things. We look forward to the return of the risen Christ and his second coming and we also look forward to the celebration of the birth of the baby Jesus.
In today's Gospel lesson Jesus is giving a very graphic example of the second coming. The sea will roar. People will faint with fear and foreboding. The powers of the heavens will be shaken. The son of man will come in a cloud.
I am not saying it will not look exactly like that but I believe we need to examine this reading through a slightly different lens. One of the national news shows did an interview of an Iranian leader several years ago. The Iranian was talking about the need for improved relations with the U.S. The reporter asked him point blank: How can we expect to have good relations with a country that uses the slogan “death to America”. It sounds like you want to kill us!
The Iranian's response was that they wish no harm to the American people. They just want an end to American policies. The truth of his response is probably somewhere in the middle. What I believe is that you have to understand the culture before you can accurately understand what is being said.
I have another more personal example. One day when I was in India, I decided to shop in the market place for a shoulder bag so I could carry my stuff. I saw a vendor who had them on display and I proceeded to bargain with the man. I offered him ten rupees for the bag which I figured to be a little low but it seemed to be a good idea to start off with a low number. He paused and came back with a counter offer of sixteen rupees. My response was nehi which means no and I raise my offer to twelve. He paused again and just shook his head from side to side. I was a little upset by his response and grudgingly raised my offer to 14 rupees. He looked at me a little strangely and shook his head from side to side again. That was it! I was done bargaining with this man who would not budge in his price. I turned around and walked away. I had walked about ten yards when a man who had been watching the interchange caught up with me and said, “he wants to sell you the shoulder bag. You see, in India when you move your head from side to side it means you agree. He will sell you the bag for twelve rupees.”
I bought the bag and I learned a lesson.
Will Jesus come down on a cloud in the second coming. He doesn't really have to. There are some of us who believe he never really left. After all, he said that when two or three are gathered in his name, he is in their midst. (Mat. 18) Jesus is telling us with all this colorful language that the second coming is a very big deal. His presence in our lives is a wonderful event
Are the streets of heaven really paved with gold. Probably not, but the writer is telling us we will lack for nothing.
So, we look forward to the day when we will be united with Christ. We look forward to the celebration of Jesus birth. It is advent season. Lets enjoy it.