Scripture Reading: ACTS 1:6-10
Why read a passage about Jesus’ ascension during the season of Advent when we prepare for his birth and return? What do Jesus’ final instructions to his closest friends just prior to being lifted up to heaven have to do with us on the cusp of Christmas? What resonates in this passage at this time in this year is the disciples’ pressing question. They want to know if now is the time that God will restore the kingdom of Israel. Their question is understandable. Having endured seeing their friend and Savior suffer and die, they want an assurance that all that pain results in restoration. In our human terms: they want to know it has all be worth it, leaving their familiar vocations, following Jesus, fearing for their lives, huddling behind locked doors, processing the good but utterly upending reality of resurrection. After all this, will the world be set right on their terms?
Do we not have similar questions at the end of this long year? Will the vaccine come soon and be safe? Will we be able to be together in person again? Is now the time we can sing in worship? Will those long oppressed find justice? Will the economic fallout ebb and turn course? Is it not the time for the restoration of what we used to call normal, Lord?
Jesus tells the disciples that he does not know the answer to what is to them their most pressing question. Instead, he gives them a mission, an unwavering purpose no matter what is happening in the world. They are to be his witnesses right where they are and to the ends of the earth. I wonder if they were frustrated by his response. I wonder if we are, too. Often we want Jesus to answer our most pressing questions, but rather than answering our question Jesus gives us a job to do. We are to tell the world what we know of Jesus and what we know of God through him. Even as we make ready for his birth, we are to tell others why his incarnation matters to us and to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the world.
As we continue to navigate a difficult time in the life of the world, we bear witness to the love of God that refuses to let us go. As we wrestle with challenges that persist despite our fatigue and dismay, we tell of the one found among the least of these. As we press God with understandable and pressing questions, Jesus recognizes our fears but entrusts us with the gospel anyway. As we get closer to Bethlehem, we remember that we are already and always witnesses to our Savior right where we are and wherever we are sent.
Prayer: Gracious God, we have so many questions, urgent questions. We want to know when this time filled with so much upheaval will come to an end. Even as you honor our questions, you entrust us with your mission of bearing witness to Jesus Christ at all times and in all places. Open our mouths that we might proclaim your praise. Guide our actions that we might embody the good news of our Savior. Amen.
- Jill Duffield © 2020 Presbyterian Outlook