Then he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”
Meditation for Sunday November 29, by Ray Suarez
The juxtaposition of this time of awareness and preparation with our celebration of the birth of Jesus is a gift to any wide-awake Christian. Jeremiah, born seven centuries before Jesus, urges God’s people to live in expectation: ‘The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land’ (Jeremiah 33:14-15).
Jeremiah is telling people to be ready. Jesus is telling people to be ready. Ready for what is not clear. Jesus seems to be getting us ready for something cataclysmic, world- shaking, life-changing. For centuries, his warnings have fired the imaginations of mystics and would-be prophets.
As disturbing as it might be to hear the preaching of a young man who has walked out of the wilderness with his friends, talking of a new world, Mary has heard even wilder news—news that transcends, renews, rejuvenates, and restores the promises Jeremiah communicates to the children of Israel.
This young woman has her ordinary day interrupted by an angel who gives her the most extraordinary news: she will give birth even though she’s never been with a man. There are no histrionics, no argument with the heavenly messenger. Instead, we hear rejoicing and acceptance. “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). Mary, this young innocent, is the one who finally finds out what everyone has longed to know: God chooses to save us, to hold and love us, with the tiny hands of a most unexpected baby.
The world is still waiting for the second advent foretold by Jesus. Mary experiences the events promised by the angel, an Incarnation that immediately cleaves the history of the world in two: All that ever happened before, and everything that’s happened since.
Ray Suarez is an American broadcast journalist and host of Inside Story on Al Jazeera America. He was the host of the National Public Radio program Talk of the Nation from 1993-1999. In his more than thirty-year career in the news business, he has also worked as a radio reporter in London and Rome, as a Los Angeles correspondent for CNN, and as a reporter for the NBC-owned station WMAQ-TV in Chicago. He and his wife live in Washington, DC, with their three children. He is active locally and nationally in The Episcopal Church.
Soul Proclamations: Singing the Magnificat with Mary is a new collection of daily meditations for the Advent season. Authors include Ray Suarez; Christopher Wells, editor of The Living Church; Kate Moorehead, dean of St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral; Thomas E. Breidenthal, bishop of the Diocese of Southern Ohio; and Christine McSpadden of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.
The book invites you to share Mary’s journey through the Advent and Christmas seasons. To walk with Mary each day this Advent, order a copy of the full volume of Soul Proclamations ($5).