As Jesus came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, "Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!" Then Jesus asked him, "Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down."
When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, "Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?" Then Jesus began to say to them, "Beware that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name and say, `I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birthpangs." Mark 13:1-8
We are coming to the end of one church year and the beginning of another. As we plunge deeper into our winter darkness, we can get anxious about all of the challenges ahead. We can become overwhelmed with worry and depressed by what we lack and the cold that surrounds us. We can read the signs as the end of times, as something to fear rather than ways to be hopeful. All gestation requires darkness and dislocation, all new life requires the bleakness of midwinter.
Jesus is encouraging his disciples to be faithful and calm despite the fearful signs around them. Jesus himself will face great torture and death for the sake of new life. He wants them to understand that the God they serve is bigger than the challenges of the times and the cruel leaders of this world. He wants us all to understand that there is more to our lives and faith than what we can see now. God will hold us close through the worst of times and strengthen us to face the worst, because the best is yet to come. New life is breaking forth from our dark and our cold.
Today, I ask God to renew my strength and to lift us all up. May the winter and darkness we face remind us of God's promise and generosity. May we rise up with new hope and joy, asking for what we need from the most loving Creator. May we see beyond the limits of today and expect new life in the coming days. For God is greater than our worst fears and bigger than our most hopeful imagining and is always acting with love for the children of God.
Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.