The theme for Advent at my Christ Churches is “The Word’s Turned Upside Down.” 2020 has been a year of such traumatic turmoil and terror, so much in our daily lives upended in addition to the national and global disruptions. In many ways, this year has teed us up for Advent, that paradoxical season of darkness and foreboding, expectation and hope. Our gospel reading starts us off in the shadows, with Jesus’ perplexing discourse about cataclysmic suffering soon to befall his followers. Is he talking about Roman persecution, or the end of the world?
“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.”
Jesus sounds most like Israel's prophets here, foretelling gloom and doom. In what comes before this passage, he’s been discussing the onset of a crisis in human terms. Here the warning signs are cosmic, with a darkened sun, a weakened moon, falling stars. And what does it mean to say that “the powers in the heavens will be shaken?”
“The heavens” is bible-speak for the spiritual realm where both good and evil operate. Jesus' mission involved engaging spiritual warfare. Indeed, in much of his ministry he was doing battle with forces of evil, reclaiming and freeing people from bondage to sin and death. That work he supremely accomplished on the cross, and he invites us to help bring it to completion in the fullness of time. When Christ is on the move, then and now, it rattles “the powers in the heavens.” In light of the victory he has already won, still unfolding in our view, that’s good news.
Every time we carry out an apostolic ministry, we rattle the powers of heaven. Every time we challenge untruth or injustice or misused power, we rattle the powers of heaven. Every time we defend the vulnerable from bullies, whether personal or corporate, we rattle the powers of heaven. Every time we invoke the power of God to forgive, heal and restore the broken, we rattle the powers of heaven. Sometimes it gets us in trouble, but Jesus promises to be with us.
What "powers in the heavens" are you feeling called to rattle? Political powers, emotional powers, corporate powers, social powers, cosmic powers? Name a realm and ask Jesus what action he is preparing for you to take. Pray to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and you can be sure you are fighting with God, serving God’s purposes.
“The world is about to turn,” goes the chorus to Canticle of the Turning, a hymn setting of the Song of Mary which we will sing throughout this season. We can help to bring about that turning in our time.
On Wednesday evenings, I lead an online Bible Study which now has participants from Toronto, Connecticut and Georgia. Why not Water Daily Land? If you'd like to join, you're most welcome - 7 pm here. If you need a passcode, it's LPWay. This Advent we'll be exploring how we live in an upside world - and hint, Jesus already turned it upside down. Or did he turn it right side up?