Reflection Part 1: Apocalypse.
This year, to say the least, even here in New Zealand where comparatively we’ve done quite well, has been a
little messy! Indeed there is a sense in which advent is a welcome arrival signalling not only the downhill run to
the end of 2020 but also reminding us that it is most certainly in the chaos and mess of life that we are to be
the most expectant for Christ’s presence to make itself known.
Mark’s words today are apocalyptic in nature, painting dramatic pictures of unusual events in an attempt to
put language to the hopeful expectancy that in the midst of terrifying calamity, surely this is when God will
come and make all things well and good again. Some say that the book of Mark was written during the time
when Jerusalem was under siege and ultimately fell in AD70. Being a resident in a city under siege is not an
experience I would like to go through (although perhaps ten years ago we did experience something of this).
And so, we can understand why there is the raw and unfiltered painting of a picture in which all the horror is
eclipsed by something that is far more powerful and speaks to something far more ‘eternal’ – the Son of God,
coming in all the might and power of God, to save them from the destruction and darkness that was upon
This I think has happened in many different ways, in many different times and places all throughout history.
That in the midst of pain and suffering there have been those who have cried out to God in hope that God
would come and sort it all out. Genuine cries of genuine hope. It is actually a wonderful pattern of the
Christian life, a posture modelled throughout history – that whatever is happening now, whether it be to an
individual, to a community, to a nation, to the earth, is not the fate of all that is.
The point of all apocalyptic literature, of course, is to inspire hope. Last week in my thoughts on the Sheep and
Goats I stated that it was a preposterous idea that we are to be afraid of God. The point of apocalyptic texts is
not to instil fear, but rather always to inspire hope. In the midst of chaos, pain, anxiety and fear we can always
say there is something far greater than these that we can not only wish for but be certainly hopeful for.
Whatever is happening, it is not our ultimate end, humanity’s home is always found with God who is good, not
evil, love, not fear, grace, not requirement. And so, we can have hope that our trajectory is not a world full of
chaos and darkness. Christ will come, just as Christ came, and because Christ was made known to us this
means our hope has a sure foundation because Christ is also already here, always waiting to be found.
Reflection Part 2: Take a lesson from the Fig tree.
One biblical image that does make sense at this time of year in the southern hemisphere (there aren’t many
that easily do – especially at Christmas time) is the fig tree. Fig trees are coming into bud right about now. As
we see the fig tree with new shoots, buds and coming into fruit as the weather warms and Christmas and
summer approaches, this reminds us that we are to be watchful and take notice of the presence of Christ in
our midst and to anticipate the ever coming fullness of God’s way in our lives. Perhaps even in the lives of
those around us, even in the world, in our society and our environment. Yes, God is with us, signs of hope are
there but also there is more to come. God is not finished.
It is of course not always straightforward to remain in such a hopeful state of being. More often than not we
find ourselves succumbing to the uncertainty, the fear, the anxiety and in doing so we end up embodying these
as our sight narrows and we begin to react and withdraw or we throw our weight around. Doing the opposite –
remaining hopeful – requires us to be active in it.
I recently came across some helpful statements. The author has called these, “Godly Presumptions”. His point
is that we can in fact presume some things about the presence of God in the world. The context in the book is
about conversations we might have with people but I believe they can be seen in a much wider lens as well.
Here they are:
● “That our conversational partner is a beloved child of God,
● that God is already redemptively present in her life. And, therefore,
● that her noblest and best moments are blessings from God, and
● that her weakest or angriest moments are occasions for God’s grace.”2
These state a starting point that is much better than beginning with the doom and gloom, than beginning with
the potential absence of God. It is like the Fig tree teaches us, there are good things present and happening
and if we go looking we can indeed discover what they are. Then the work we are to do is to participate in that,
to have once again that posture of hope.
I wonder what it would mean for us in our individual lives to enter the day tomorrow with the expectation that
this or that person, this or that situation is indeed held in the presence of God, that God is already present and
working for good, that the good and true things that we encounter are blessings of God, and that the moments
of anger, anxiety, chaos, pain and suffering and indeed moments for the grace of God to break in.
I wonder what would happen if we looked through this lens.
Hope no doubt, and the existence of the widest vista of grace, that is the presence of Christ will most certainly
Yes, O come, O come Emmanuel.
2 Dr Mark Davis, Talking about Evangelism, p46.