Advent | Day 16

Monday, December 12

  • Psalms 41, 44, 52
  • Zechariah 1.7-17
  • Revelation 3.7-13
  • Matthew 24.15-31

It is difficult to read texts like Zechariah 1.7-17 and Matthew 24.15-31 and not feel completely disoriented. What has happened to Jesus, the humble, wandering teacher, most at home in the small fishing villages of the Galilee. “Blessed are the meek” and “Love your neighbor” have given way to a terrifying cosmic vision:

“For at that time there will be great suffering,
such as has not been from the beginning of
the world until now, no, and never will be” (Matt. 24.21).

“Immediately after the suffering of those days
the sun will be darkened,
And the moon will not give its light;
The stars will fall from heaven,
And the powers of heaven will be shaken” (Matt. 24.29).

By the time the gospel of Matthew was written, about half a century after the death of Jesus, its audience had undergone a world-shattering trauma. The bewildering text in Matthew 24 may describe the experience of some members of that community during the Roman-Jewish wars of 66-70 C. E., which culminated in the destruction of Jerusalem.

Two thousand years later, we are still able to read the gospel message that was written to that community, and which they somehow preserved to hand on to us. It is not difficult to imagine that in those days, these early followers of Jesus might have read or recited Psalms like 41, 44, and 52. These poems say a lot about enemies:

“By this I know that you are pleased with me;
Because my enemy has not triumphed over me” (Psalm 41.11).

I do not like to think or talk about having enemies. Even in situations of conflict, I try to hope that those who are aligned against me have a greater identity than just “my enemy.” Nevertheless, this is a challenge on many days, and I need a reminder that the gospel message is, at the same time, both tiny and massive. It is the ordinary birth of a child in an obscure village and it is the falling of the stars from heaven. It is a momentary interaction on the shore of a lake, and it is a cosmic, world-shattering event.

Mark McEntire
Professor, School of Religion

You can access an online version of the 2011 Advent Guide (presented annually be Belmont’s School of Religion) at:




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