I’ve never quite figure out how the various newspapers come up with headlines, because some of them are so confusing that you don’t know if should read the article or not. The really confusing ones are known as “Crash Blossoms”, a phrase coined in 1985 from a news headline that read, “Violinist Linked to JAL Crash Blossoms.” It sounds like the violinist was somewhat responsible for the crash, but as it turns out, the violinist’s father was killed in the crash. Others include: “Police Can’t Stop Gambling.” “Blind Bishop Appointed To See.” “Kids Make Nutritious Snacks.” Then there are some headlines that are just stupid: “Homicide Victims Rarely Talk to Police.” “Federal Agents Raid Gun Shop, Find Weapons.” “One Armed Man Applauds the Kindness of Strangers.” “Woman Missing Since She Got Lost.” “Something Went Wrong in Jet Crash, Expert Says.” What’s this all got to do with anything?
I have a fairly set routine most mornings: roll out, make the coffee, poach the eggs, maybe have a banana with peanut butter, sit down at the computer and read some devotionals, then to the news. I have a couple of sources for my news (not any of the networks), but what I have discovered is that I have unintentionally added another element to my routine. It follows reading the headlines and some of the stories. The new element: speaking the words, “The world has lost its dang mind!” (Depending on how bad those headlines are, the word “dang” may be replaced with other language.) You understand what I’m talking about.
What’s even more fun than that is to have just enough biblical education to know that some of these headlines fit in real nice with warnings of the end of days, like what we had in our Gospel reading this morning: “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. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.” Read the headlines and check items off the list: signs in the sun, the moon, the stars, the raging of the oceans—check to all that. Further on, Jesus also talks about dissipation / debauchery, drunkenness, worries—we’ve got plenty of those as well. Yes. The world has lost its dang mind and all the calamities and chaos only go to prove the point. Just to add to the fun, not only can what Jesus said be taking literally, but it can also be seen as imagery. Take that the bit about “the roaring of the sea and the waves.”
In the past, we’ve talked about how the waters represent the chaos of the world. To go into the waters is to go down to the abyss, the home of that great leviathan and the place of death, but the roaring seas also have other meanings. In particular, they can be referring to the nations of the earth. Since we’re having fun with end times, Revelation 17:1, the angel of the Lord says to John, “Come, I will show you the judgment of the great prostitute who is seated on many waters,” and a bit further in v.15 the angels says, “The waters that you saw, where the prostitute is seated, are peoples and multitudes and nations and languages.” So the waters and the raging of the seas that Jesus spoke about in our Gospel are not only disturbances in the natural world, but also disturbances in society and the raging of the nations. We hope that as a Christian people, we will be able to avoid these things, but Jesus says that these things “will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth.” If we dwell on them, these things can terrify us. We’ll be the ones that are fainting with fear. Will the earth be hit by a giant meteor? Will Covid Omicron or Unicorn or Caption Tripps take us all out? Will the Doomsday Clock finally strike midnight? And yet, Jesus also said, “Which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” (Luke 12:25) And, “Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matthew 6:34) And again, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:27)
On one side we’ve got the raging of the abyss, the leviathan, and the nations of the world in an uproar and on the other side we’ve got, be at peace and don’t be anxious or worry about tomorrow. What are we to do? How are we to respond? Jesus did not leave us to guess or to try and figure these things out for ourselves. He told us the answer in our lesson today, “When these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” When these things truly begin to take place—and they will not be hidden from anyone on the planet! It is not going to be a secret and only a select few see his coming, but when you see these things taking place… rejoice! for the salvation of God is here, with the inauguration of his Kingdom being played out before you. In the meantime, Jesus also tells us what to do: “Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down… Be alert at all times, praying that you may have strength.”
That truly is what this Season of Advent is all about. It is a reminder that no matter how obscure or threatening the headlines are, our God is the one who is writing the story and therefore, we as a Christian people are to live, not just for these four weeks of the Church year, but every day of our life in joyful anticipation of His return. Not afraid or coward by the raging seas, but by going about the work that God has placed before us: helping into the boat, the ark, into the Church and God’s family, those who are being tossed about in the waters. As the Lord said to Isaiah,
Fear not, for I am with you;
be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Yes. It can be scary at times and the world is losing its dang mind, but as long as you are alert and on your guard, praying and doing the work of a disciple, you can have peace in your heart and joy for the final things that are to come.
Let us pray: Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, ever faithful to your promises and ever close to your Church: the earth rejoices in hope of the Savior’s coming and looks forward with longing to his return at the end of time. Prepare our hearts and remove the sadness that hinders us from feeling the joy and hope which his presence will bestow, for he is Lord for ever and ever. Amen.