Advent Signs

This coming Sunday is the start of a new liturgical year (Year C) and the first Sunday in Advent. In the two previous posts we placed the Sunday gospel in the context of the Advent Season and in Scripture. Today we can begin to consider some of the details.

25 “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on earth nations will be in dismay, perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves. 26 People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.”

Only Luke uses the word “signs” in this section. The same word was used earlier in the question “Teacher, when will this happen? And what sign will there be when all these things are about to happen?” (Luke 21:7) and “…There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues from place to place; and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky”(v.11). Perhaps one remembers that Jesus’ opponents “to test him, asked him for a sign from heaven” (11:16). A little later Jesus responds to this request: “This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah. Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation.” (11:29-30)

But then, Jesus has always been a sign: “This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger” (2:12).

But then signs have been predicted by the prophets for centuries and thus are not simply marked to one moment of history. Luke Timothy Johnson (Luke, Sacra Pagina, 330) notes:

“The transition to this third part of the discourse is unobtrusive, marked mainly by the repetition of the term “sign” from 21:7 in 21:25. It quickly becomes clear, however, that the things now being described no longer concern the history of the believers or the fate of the city, but the worldwide experience of humans at the judgment: Luke speaks of the “distress and confusion among the nations” (v. 25), the things that are coming on “the inhabited world” (oikoumene, v. 26), on everyone inhabiting the earth” (v. 35). And if these indications were not clear enough, his description of “signs” are no longer those of wars and revolutions (v. 10) or even of earthquakes, famines, plagues and portents in the sky (v. 11) or armies around the city (v. 20), but entirely of cosmic events in sun, moon and stars (v. 25), the tumult of the ocean (v. 25), shaking of the heavenly powers themselves (v. 26).

The discussion of signs continues tomorrow – which is Thanksgiving. So, I hope you have blessed day and if you are traveling, stay safe! God bless

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