Messianic hope fills the Advent Season. Throughout the centuries, Christians have held fast to that hope. It was the hope of the Early Church as it is the hope of the church in the twenty-first century. It is this messianic hope that keeps Christians alert and especially during times of persecution, tribulations and personal trials of every kind.
The Gospel Reading for the First Sunday of Advent (Mark 13:24-37) shows the expectations in the Early Church. There would be signs of the Messiah’s coming, according to Jesus, “then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory…Truly I tell you this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place”. In our day we can say that generation and many more after have gone by.
It is important to note that eager expectation is repeated over and over again in the New Testament. It is equally important to emphasize that literal attempts in interpretation serve no useful purpose. What is important is to realize that God is a factor in the world: yesterday, today and tomorrow.
In our own century, with so much unrest and conflict everywhere we have convinced ourselves that technology, military might, free market economy with its emphasis on production and consumerism, are tools for victory. But the New Testament emphasis, in the Early Church and today is faith that God who acted in the coming of Jesus Christ is still acting and will act to the end. Jesus does not come to any single generation but to all.
The message in every generation therefore is: “Be alert, watch and pray”. It has been said that the worst “ism” in the world is somnambulism – “sleep walking” – which is the opposite of being alert and watching.