Jeremy D. Scott
I first went to college with the hopes of being a high school history teacher. US History was particularly exciting to me. I liked memorizing dates, knowing what happened to who, where, and when and what implications each event or person had upon the things to come. History - as that which studies things past - is rather set, finished, and complete. While there are different ways to interpret what has happened in history and people can even debate what actually happened, the past tends to be something we are more able to handle, even if it was difficult. History is at least over.
The future though - I wonder why few people go to school to study the future. It’s not something we like to deal with as much. There are too many unknown variables. Can one major in “the future”?
By now if you don’t have a Christmas tree already set up in your home, you surely have seen them for sale while out and about. It would be an odd thing to see Christmas trees for sale in March or June. This is because we’re used to seeing them in late November as a sign to us that Christmas is coming. Jesus uses the seasonal changes in the fig tree in Luke 21 to describe the coming of the Kingdom.
And in giving the disciples signs of what’s coming Jesus has us looking ahead here, as he most always does. I once heard a sermon that purported that Jesus would never keep a family photo album or busy himself with scrap-booking or a yearbook. While I still feel it was a bit of a hyperbole, the point was surely made: Jesus was primarily focused on the future, setting his face to look forward. While honoring the past (his religion, family, and the practicing of tradition), Jesus is ever looking ahead.
In Christ’s words, we hear part of the Church’s call to us in Advent:
Look!...Be on guard!...Watch!
It’s hard to be on this kind of lookout for what’s coming when our heads are stuck in the past. While the traditions we enjoy during the holidays are foundational groundings and comforting reminders of the past, let us not forget the Church’s call is ever facing the future, both the hope that it entails. This is the dual nature of Advent:
Christ has come! Christ is coming again!
Lord, in your deep wisdom, grant us the opportunity and ability to face the future with great hope, with great courage, and with great humility. – Amen.