Something New

“But in those days, after that suffering… Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory.”

Mark 13:24-37

December 1, 2023, Words By: Rev. Sarah Wiles, Image By: Unknown

Made Flesh

It’s December and suddenly Christmas music is everywhere. Lights have gone up. Letters to Santa are being written. All is merry and bright.

Mark did not get the memo. Advent with Mark is not jolly.

Quite the opposite. It starts with suffering. Jesus has been listing all the suffering his followers are going to experience. There’s going to be suffering. That’s not up for debate. But notice: The suffering is where the story starts, not where it ends.

There was a picture in the New York Times just before Advent about a decade ago.* In the foreground of the picture, there was a five-year-old girl lying alone on a sidewalk in Monrovia, Liberia. Her name was Esther Morris. Across the street you can see a big crowd watching her. Esther’s entire family has died from Ebola, and now she’s sick too.

She’s fallen on the sidewalk, unable to go any farther. She is wearing a pink striped shirt, pajama bottoms with red dog bones all over them, and flip flops. She is not dead, but she is close. Someone has set what looks like a drink by her head, maybe a foot away. But she is lying there utterly alone. No one will go near her for fear of catching Ebola. In the article that accompanied the picture we learn that though Esther was eventually transferred to a treatment center, she died a week later.

This year it’s not Ebola. This year, images depict war in the Middle East, portraying Israeli families enduring the agony of waiting for hostages and fathers cradling the too-small bodies of their deceased children in Gaza. Their eyes are empty with grief.

Esther’s suffering is not new. The suffering of parents in Gaza is not new. It is the same old story of disease, and poverty, and the brokenness of the human heart. Jesus has always been straight with us: the story begins with suffering. You don’t have to go out and find suffering. It finds us all.

But even as he says that, in the very same breath, he makes this promise: One day the stars will fall. The sun will not rise on this same old, same old. Something new will happen.

I find that hard to believe. Depression has been a regular visitor in my life for years. We’ve gotten to know one another well, and I’ve learned some of its tricks. One of the lies it tells every time it visits is that the way it is now is the way it is always going to be. The pain of this moment will never be relieved. In my heart, in my body, in this profoundly broken world. It is always going to be the same old story.

In the face of that despair, the scandalous claim of Advent is that there will be something new. This is the promise at the very heart of God. The witness of scripture is that God—whoever, whatever God may be—can do a new thing.

God can brood over the darkness and then speak a new word: Light! And light appears.

God can take an old couple, withered and worn, and give them new life, renewed laughter.

God, with the consent of a young woman, can come as a newborn into our midst.

The promise is this: the sun will not always rise on this same old story of suffering. One morning the stars will fall. A new day is coming for this whole weary world, and whatever else it may hold, it bears the face of Christ.


Dwelling Among Us

What feels stuck, unchangeable, impossible in your life? In your community? Your city? What would newness look like? And how would you know it was coming?

About The Author

Rev. Sarah Wiles