Reflection for the 1st Sunday of Advent 2020

The Denouement

Many of the book of the Old Testament and nearly all the New Testament books tell of the day the Lord will return.  Each and every passage tells of a denouement, when all the events of history, good and bad, will make sense and find their completion; a time when all the confused and hanging threads of time will appear as a beautiful  tapestry.

Gospel Reading: Mark 13.24-27

“24 In the days after that time of trouble the sun will grow dark, the moon will no longer shine, 25 the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers in space will be driven from their courses. 26 Then the Son of Man will appear, coming in the clouds with great power and glory. 27 He will send the angels out to the four corners of the earth to gather God’s chosen people from one end of the world to the other.”

The Human Heart Longs for a Denouement

This is an iconic photograph from the end of World War II.  The survivor, still wearing the prison uniform of the Buchenwald Concentration Camp points at a man in Nazi military uniform.  He signals that the man was a guard.  

Hitler’s Third Reich (Empire) was to have lasted for a thousand years. National Socialists were certain that the  brutal and immoral force used would eventually be seen as just. Only twelve years later, the real truth would come out, Hitler’s demonic ideology would be totally exposed, the most hideous inhumanity and cruelty would be seen for what it was, and the regime would be judged and punished

There is a spiritual counterpart to this.  A time when the Lord will judge evil and set aright the injustices of thousands of years of human history.

When Christ shall come…..

This verse was written by Stuart Hine, a Methodist missionary in 1948. It tells of the Second Advent.  Stuart was working in a camp full of homeless Russians displaced by World War 2.  Amongst them, he found a Christian. He had been separated from his wife at the very end of the war, and had not seen her since. At the time they were separated, his wife was a Christian, but he was not, but he had since been converted. His deep desire was to find his wife so they could at last share their faith together. But he told Stuart that he did not think he would ever see his wife on earth again.

Instead he was longing for the day when they would meet in heaven, and could share in the Life Eternal there.  This inspired him to write the verse.

This is the gospel message of the Second Advent, that Jesus will return following a time of intense distress, political corruption, and physical disturbances both on the earth and in space.  Then as Paul writes in Philippians:

“….at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

(Philippians 2.10-11)

Breaking through the Confusion of Good and Bad, Right and Wrong

In 1977, the BBC ran a drama called “Secret Army” Lisa Colbert runs Lifeline,  a resistance organisation in Brussels that helps Allied aircrew to evade capture and return to Britain The rescues are done under the cover of a Belgian bar called Café Candide, which, sadly, is a favourite of German soldiers and the Gestapo.

Other Belgians hate Lisa because she is caters for the enemy; fraternising with Nazis, and making money out of the war.  It’s only at the end that that the truth comes out – whatever act they put on for the Nazis.

There is a spiritual counterpart to this.  A time when the Lord will reveal the truth of those masquerading as good, and events, which, though they appeared most wrong, were actually right.

“Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just        as God now knows me completely.”

 (1 Corinthians 13.12)

And Take Me Home….

At about the age of 7, the first scout camp I ever went on was at Middlewood, between Worsley and Boothstown.  On a post I saw this symbol, and somebody explained it meant “Gone home” – it honoured a scout leader who had died and gone to be with Jesus.

Only now, do I appreciate that gentleness and joy of calling the end “going home.”  In the hymn, Stuart Hine speaks of the Second Advent as Jesus taking us home. That picture of home as a safe place, a cosy place, a place to be once again with those we love, and those who love us, is both beautiful and powerful – as if all the wonderful feelings we have ever had about home are only a vague foreshadowing of what the Lord has prepared for us.

This is the ultimate purpose of the Second Advent.  Isaiah uses this picture to describe going home:

Jesus’ invitation is so uncomplicated:  “….believe in Me.  I go to prepare a place for you…. I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14.1ff)

To believe, to simply believe, to surrender to His love and to follow in His footsteps on the path that leads to our eternal home.

The Collect for Advent Sunday


Almighty God,

give us grace to cast away the works of darkness

and to put on the armour of light,

now in the time of this mortal life,

in which your Son Jesus Christ came to us in great humility;

that on the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty

to judge the living and the dead,

we may rise to the life immortal;

through him who is alive and reigns with you,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever.