Happy New Year! This Sunday is the first of our new liturgical year. We begin our lingering trip to the manger. While the world is already starting to tire of Christmas refrains and Salvation Army bells and manic shopping we begin to turn our eyes to our coming Lord. Jesus coming again in the manger in four weeks and Jesus coming once and for all in who knows who many months or weeks or days or moments?
25 "There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. 26 People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 Then they will see "the Son of Man coming in a cloud' with power and great glory. 28 Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near." 29 Then he told them a parable: "Look at the fig tree and all the trees; 30 as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. 31 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. 32 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. 34 "Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, 35 like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. 36 Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man."
There are so many things that can worry us and capture our attention. Jesus talks about not being weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life.
A look on Merriam Webster’s on-line dictionary (www.m-w.com) gives the following as synonyms for dissipation: abjection, corruptness, debasement, debauchery, decadence, decadency, degeneracy, degenerateness, degeneration, degradation, demoralization, depravity, dissipatedness, corruption, dissoluteness, libertinage, libertinism, perversion, pervertedness, rakishness, turpitude. How easy it is to fall into such practices in a culture with little focus and more wealth than we know what to do with. And with the wealth of cable channels available with which we can voyeuristically engage in such dissipation as well. Our time, our minds and our souls can be drawn into the tawdry, the obscene and a pointless. This can weigh us down.
Drunkenness is how so many chose to self-medicate and escape the pains of this life. Through drink and other escapist endeavors the world falls away. But so to does the reality in which God has called us to live. Families and careers and physical well-beings are drowned along with ones sorrows. The cycles and pains and expenses of chemical abuse can and do weigh us and those we love down.
This world is full of uncertainties. There are so many things that could happen—so many more than actually do. The demons exploit that fact when drawing people into worry in The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. Fretting about what might come to pass can rob us blind of the joys immediately before our eyes. As Jesus says “People will faint from fear and foreboding”—there is much that can captivate and terrorize our souls. Those constant worries can steal our sanities, corrupt our health and smother our joy. This can be a crushing blow.
But Jesus encourages us to remember that the day of his return is coming. Heaven and earth will indeed pass away but his promise to return will not pass away until it comes to pass.
May we find ways to encourage one another to shun the vain amusements of this world, to keep sober and to not let worry steal our hope. We don’t find these on our own. Through prayer and God’s empowering we, as community, are and will be able to stand before the Son of Man. Thanks be to God.
Jesus, give us eyes to see, hearts to endure, minds to discern and steely spines to stand—all to your glory. Amen.