Will It Bloom?
We read this morning a parable that Jesus told the crowd gathered around him in the Temple after his triumphal entry in Jerusalem for Passover. Every day he was teaching in the temple and Luke tells us that early in the morning all the people came to him in the temple to hear him. And as the crowd listened to Jesus teaching in the Temple, the promise spoken by the prophet Jeremiah rang in their ears.
“Behold, the days are coming, when I will fulfill the promise I made…at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring forth…and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.”
So, when Jesus looked around at the massiveness and splendor of the Temple and proclaimed that “the days will come when all these things you see will be thrown down. Not one stone will be left upon stone.“ They asked him, “Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign when this is about to take place?”
He answers that the end will not come at once. He warns that many will say ‘The time is at hand!’ Nation will rise against nation, there will be great earthquakes, famines, pestilence; there will be terrors and great signs from the heavens,…the seas will roar, and fear of what it coming in the world will overwhelm…” Then they will see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.
Hear now the words of Jesus about this time, recorded by Luke… (Luke 21:29-36)
Behold, the days are coming, when God will fulfill God’s promise of justice and righteousness in the land, when God’s kingdom will come on earth as it is in heaven, and when the end comes and the Lord returns, you will look at a fig tree, and all the trees, and see for yourselves that summer is already near. It is striking to me that Jesus did not say, “You will look at the fig tree and see how it withers.” Instead, you will see it budding and know that summer is near.
The raging of the nations, earthquakes, famines, pestilence, terrors, roaring of the seas, and overwhelming fears will begin to be behind you. A new season will bud. We live in between – in between the time that Jesus came and that Jesus is coming. And every generation has seen signs that the end is near.
A few years ago at Thanksgiving, my mother-in-law had a Christmas cactus on her end table. It was a nice-looking plant, but it really was kind of in the way. Someone had given it to her the year before, and when it was beautiful and blooming it had earned a place there. But, now that it was just green and plain, it was hard to justify not having a place to set a book or your coffee when you sat on the couch. I didn’t really think much of it, but she commented, “If that plant doesn’t bloom this year, I’m just going to throw it out.”
Well, I had gotten a Christmas cactus the year before too. I was hosting the day school staff’s Christmas party, and my coffee table in the living room needed something to brighten it up. So, I bought this beautiful cactus in full bloom. But, since then all the blooms had long-since fallen off, and the plant was still on my coffee table. I began to think about throwing it out. (old cactus)
But then, it got a few little buds, and I waited. And they fell off. The whole next year went by, and each month I became more determined that if that Christmas cactus didn’t bloom at Christmas, it was gone. But, I knew that if I set an ultimatum like that I had to do my part. So, I paid attention to the watering schedule. I let it get dry, and then I rained a good heavy rain on it, week after week, month after month…and it set blooms, and it was beautiful.
This year, I may not have been as attentive. This one is the cactus from my living room, and I don’t expect that it will bloom this Christmas.
My friends, the kingdom of God is like a Christmas cactus. Jesus says, “Look at the plants…you can tell when they are budding and getting ready to bloom. When you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. But, take heed yourselves…pay attention to your own watering schedule. If you don’t, the pleasures and worries of this world will consume you. You won’t have time for the Living Water, and the time to bloom will come and you won’t be ready.”
This Advent, take time to pray and prepare to welcome Jesus into our world, and into your life. We emailed an Advent devotional for you to download, or you can pick up one of the These Days booklets in the rack just outside the Sanctuary, or you may have another devotional practice that is helpful to you. Pay attention to your own watering so that the pleasures and worries of life don’t consume you.
And this Advent, notice the buds of new life breaking forth in our world, and in your life. It is easy to focus on the animosity, friction, antagonism, enmity, bitterness, resentment and hostility between nations rather than the summits that our leaders have to negotiate and work together, to focus on the hunger, the homelessness, the crisis rather than the ones who feed, who house, who are present in the midst of the crisis.
This Advent, how are you a part of the coming Kingdom of new life? It is breaking forth in beautiful bloom. (new cactus) Amen.