Advent Week 1, Sunday


God's Appearing, Our Awareness
Photo and reflections by Beth Dixon, Communications, Kentucky Annual Conference

Isaiah 64:1
O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence...

Mark 13:24-37
"But in those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see "the Son of Man coming in clouds' with great power and glory. Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.

"From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
"But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Therefore, keep awake - for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake."

Like the writer of Isaiah, we often think God ought to appear in a showy and very obvious manner. We want neon signs pointing the way. When God came to Earth as a baby named Jesus, there was a bright star, not to mention a pretty dramatic announcement to the shepherds. But I imagine a lot of people missed the appearance. They weren’t expecting it.

In a sermon called “Watching and Waiting,” Rev. Donald Quick said, “Christ comes like the wind, like a breath of life. If you don't expect him, you will not find him. And if you do find him, don't be surprised if he's unlike the one you expected.”

This reminds me of the title of one of James Moore’s books, God Was Here and I Was Out to Lunch. The title is Rev. Moore’s paraphrase of Genesis 28:16: “When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, ‘Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it.’”

A question asked at some camps, youth groups, and even in worship services is “Where did you see God this week?” When I was on vacation last summer, I asked myself each day where I had seen God and wrote the answer in my travel journal. It gave a new focus to my travels and helped me to be aware of God in the midst of my days. Reading the words of Jesus in Mark 13, I think another question may be in order: Did I expect to see God there, or was his showing up a surprise?

During this Advent season, I hope we will be alert to the unexpected ways God may appear.

“Bring to our troubled minds,
Uncertain and afraid,
The quiet of a steadfast faith,
Calm of a call obeyed.”
“O Day of God, Draw Nigh,” by Robert B. Y. Scott (1937)