Advent 1 – Sunday, December 3, 2017

December 3, 2017  

Mark 13:32-37

They were huddled in a shack, waiting for a storm to come. The storm would be fierce, they knew. A hurricane was coming. They knew it was coming, not because they heard it on the news or saw it online—this was before any of those things existed. They knew the storm was coming because they had seen the signs.

People were heading inland. Rabbits were scurrying east. Possums were slinking by, first one by one, then in groups. Even rattlesnakes were slithering away to safety.

They stayed, the three of them. They were people with nowhere to go. They were people who didn’t really know how severe the storm could be because they had never been in a hurricane.

It was night time. It was dark. The night would last for days once the storm began.

Then the storm started to roll in. One of the three, Janie, looked outside. She saw “the drifting mists gathered in the west… to arm themselves with thunders and march forth against the world. Louder and higher and lower and wider the sound and motion spread, mounting, sinking, darking” (Their Eyes Were Watching God, Hurston).

As the person telling this story wrote “It is so easy to be hopeful in the day time, when you can see the things you wish on. But it was night. It stayed night. Night was striding across nothingness with the whole round world in his hands” (Hurston).

And so they huddled closer and stared at the door. “They just didn’t use another part of their bodies, and they didn’t look at anything but the door” the author wrote. She wrote “The time was past to ask…folks what to look for through that door. Six eyes were questioning God” (Hurston).

One of the two men asked the woman, his wife, if she was mad at him for dragging her into the sugar cane fields where they worked. She said no. She said “If you kin see de light at daybreak, you don’t keer if you die at dusk. It’s so many people never see de light at all” (Hurston).

“Suddenly the wind came back with triple the fury, and put out the light for the last time. They sat in the company with the others in other shanties, their eyes straining against crude walls and their souls asking God if [God] meant to measure their puny might against [God’s]. They seemed to be staring at the dark, but their eyes were watching God” (Hurston).

The story was written by Zora Neale Hurston, an African American women writer from the time of the Harlem Renaissance. Her book, titled Their Eyes Were Watching God, includes this tale of a hurricane blowing through the south. The story is fiction but we know, we know it could have been real. We’ve seen the damage hurricanes have done. We have seen the wind. We have seen the day turn to night. We have seen the light at daybreak.

There are earthly storms and then there are the storms we face soul-fully. There are storms that take root in our subconscious. There are storms that take our emotions for a spin, dropping us God knows where… There are storms that touch us deep inside, bringing out our inner fears. In those shadowy places, our eyes might question God. Our eyes might be watching God.

It is Advent.

Literally, Advent is a time of darkness because it comes when we have our longest nights. Our days are shorter. Shadows stretch and linger.

In this season of shadows, we light our first light. Our first candle. And we wait. And we watch. Like moths, we circle the candle flame, yearning for more light.

Advent is designed to be a season of shadow and light. A season of waiting and watching. A season of longing and hoping.

We wait for Jesus.

We know he came to the world. We know he ascended into heaven. Now we wait, as generation after generation has waited… hoping for Christ to come again.

Our eyes are watching God, wondering when, finally Jesus will return.

Why do we watch? Why do we wait? What are we hoping for?

We watch, we wait, we hope because we see, we hear, we know the suffering of the world. And we want it to end.

We want the final victory Jesus has promised.

When I was a child I was afraid of the night. I had to have my bed pushed into the corner of the bedroom I shared with my sister because I needed to be able to sleep facing my bedroom door. I was convinced someone was going to sneak into our bedroom in the night. I laid awake, watching the door until I finally fell into exhausted sleep.

While we wait for Jesus to return to the world, our job isn’t just to watch, our job is to make his presence known through what we do, how we live, what we say. Our job, as followers of Jesus, as watchers in the night, is to be the light. To be the light of Jesus that shines brightly, to be a light that shines boldly, to be a light that brings love, a light that brings peace, a light that brings hope, a light that brings justice, a light that serves God’s purpose.

We can do this. We must do this, even as we wait and as we hope.

Amen.