“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, …when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” (Luke 21:25&28)
"Begin with the end in mind."
It's one of those leadership adages and one with which Jesus – though he didn't make his living writing leadership books – would agree. Only the endings on Jesus' mind are much bigger, more cosmic. "There will be signs in the heavens," says Jesus.
We don't pay much attention to the heavens in this age. Unless you're a meteorology or astronomy major, there's not really that much that's going on there that's of interest. Our lives are lived independently of the heavens. We get up before sunrise, we work well after sundown. The seasons change around us but you never know it indoors. Eclipses and other phenomena make the news but we take them in, not as a means of divining our destiny, but as an object of educated interest. Our machines have harnessed nature in such a way that nature has little relevance to daily life, until the power goes out, then we're really vulnerable.
Anyone who has lived any life at all knows that life is fragile, not just in the face of really big storms and power outages, but in the course of every day. Many of us know this because we’ve seen our own dreams die. We've lost people we love. We've lived through the heartache of losing out on those things that were most precious. And many of us have discovered in the midst of such losses that life in Christ continues.
Yet these last days of the semester we often live differently.
Later, Jesus warns against dissipation. It's a kind of wastefulness that is usually associated with questionable morals and excessive drinking. Dissipation, however, can take other forms, like that of exhaustion born in the struggle of the need to perform, to be the best, to have all the right experiences, to do all the right things, to have all the right grades, to have all the right lines on the right resume to get into the right grad school.
The cares of this world can threaten to crowd out the peace that Christ, who is our beginning and our end, longs to offer. Oh, we begin with the end in mind, all right, but we believe that the end is what we make of it. We might sing that he's got the whole world in his hands, but we work like the whole world is in ours.
"Begin with the end in mind." Here in this first week of Advent, a time of both beginnings and endings, Jesus is calling us to remember that our end, our fulfillment is in him.
Rev. James A. Wetzstein and Rev. Charlene M. Rachuy Cox serve as university pastors at Valpo and take turns writing weekly reflections.