If Not Now, When?

Rabbi Tarfon said, "The day is short. The work is long. We are not enjoined to complete the task. Nor are we free to desist from it altogether." And Rabbi Hillel said: "If not now, when?" With their words, two of the greatest teachers in Jewish history help to prepare our journey through Advent. But first, Mark will lead us through the last weeks of the year, which culminate with the celebration of Christ as king. Then the new liturgical year begins as it always does, with God's interruption into human history. Born of Mary, the word of God, Wisdom-Sophia, seeks a place among us once more—not just on Dec. 25, but every minute of every day.

Luke's unique focus on eschatological themes during Advent reminds us that, in the words of the rabbis, preparing for God's impending presence is a daily task. Though we may never see the final result, it is our minute-to-minute alertness that counts, and we must "Be on guard!" and "Be alert at all times!" (Luke 21:34, 36). Judgment day is now, and we must respond now. Each day brings horrifying apocalypses for too many people around the globe, whether in Liberia, Southeast Asia, or Iraq. We all bear our own apocalypses—death, loss, illness, and addictions. How do we bring the good news to those who today suffer judgment after judgment, who plead for mercy, who ache to know the presence of the living God? Advent celebrations are hollow if they are about waiting passively; instead we must "bear fruits worthy of repentance" (Luke 3:8). As an Advent people, we always must be preparing for the incarnation, even and especially in the face of death and despair. We stay vigilant because we know that God will come, and that "the peace of God, which surpasses understanding" (Philippians 4:7) is always seeking a place to be born. If not now, when? Michaela Bruzzese is a free-lance writer living in Chile.

November 2

Worship the Living God

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Sojourners Magazine November-December 2003
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