simply Christmas coverSUNDAY   — HOPE


A Devotional Reflection on Mark 13:24-37

Of all the chores I had when I was younger, emptying the dishwasher was one of my least favorite. It wasn’t the hardest chore, and definitely didn’t take the longest, but for some reason, when I was asked to empty the dishwasher, I always put it off as long as possible.  Soon, though, this turned into a trend that I began to be severely reprimanded for.

I can recall countless times when, on weekday afternoons when I was about eight or nine years old, my mother would be leaving the house to go run some errands.  I would be watching an afternoon educational TV program, using up my allotted hour of TV time per day, and my mother would come into the room, purse on her shoulder, ready to walk out the door.

“I want you to empty the dishwasher, please. Make sure you do it before I get back.  I’ll only be gone about 45 minutes.”

“Yes, Mom,” I’d say, good intentioned, yet half-distracted by the TV show still playing while I answered.

Inevitably, though, once my show was over, I’d totally haveforgotten my mother’s request, and I’d go on to do other things with my time. Even when she arrived home, I wouldn’t remember that I’d forgotten to obey, until she went into the kitchen and found the dishwasher still full of clean dishes, and would ask me why I hadn’t emptied them like I’d said I would.

She wasn’t just disappointed in me; she disciplined me because I hadn’t done what she asked me to do — I hadn’t done what I said I’d do, even though I meant to follow through.

What happened between my mother and me in these encounters is very similar to what Jesus is talking about in this gospel passage.

In the passage, Jesus is warning his disciples about the chaos that will come at the end of time and about his return to reign over the earth.  But the disciples want to know when all of this is going to happen.

To try to explain it clearer Jesus tells the story of a master who is going away: “He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch. Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping” (v. 34b-36, NIV).

Just as I was found so many times by my mother, not having completed what she asked me to do, Jesus warns the disciples against the same sort of thing — but with God.

The bottom line is that we don’t know when Jesus is going to return, but we do know how He’s asked us to live in the meantime.  We are like the servants in the parable who have been left to their assigned tasks, and told to be alert, waiting for the master’s return.  It’s this balancing act of keeping our bodies and hearts busy here in the present, doing the things Jesus has asked of us, and keeping our minds and our souls looking for Jesus, waiting anxiously for His coming. Because He will come again, and it will be unexpected.

The Israelites of old were given the commandment to love God and to love their neighbors as they awaited the arrival of the Messiah, Jesus.  We, too, are awaiting His arrival and we are left with the same commands.  Except we have been given an additional commandment — to go out and make disciples. So not only do we need to live with Christ’s love flowing out of us, but we can let that love be a testament to the hope that we have in Jesus, and we can tell people about that hope that He offers to them, too.

So you see, our Advent journey isn’t just about reliving the road to Bethlehem and remembering the Christmas story. That’s part of it, but our journey through Advent begins with where we are now — waiting for our coming King, receiving the hope that He gives us, and embodying that hope in our community. Jesus’ birth was the beginning of God’s plan to bring us out of our sin and back to Him, but Jesus’ second coming will bring the total fulfillment of that plan. While our world is still a broken and painful place, part of Advent is celebrating that God still has a plan in place to make right everything that is wrong. And that is something to hope for and celebrate!

First Sunday of Advent

The first candle of Advent is the prophets’ candle, which symbolizes hope. As the prophets of Israel received from God messages of hope about His promise to heal and reclaim Israel, we also receive that message today. The flicker of a single flame reminds us that the Light of the World, Jesus, has already come. However, Jesus has not yet returned to complete the work He started. We wait and anticipate the second coming of the Son of God in order that the world may be rid of all darkness. Today, we are called to recognize the darkness and to hope in the Light.


1) Adapted from Paul Sheneman, Illuminate: an Advent Experience. Kansas City, MO: Beacon Hill of Kansas City, 2011. Print.