Fans of the novels of Robert Galbraith (alias JK Rowling) should recognise the cluster of stars known as Messier 54 as a major clue in one of the Cormoran Strike thrillers. It is a globular galaxy some 87,000 LY away (just down the road really. The clue is given to Strike by and Ian Brady type murderer who says that it is a sign pointing to the burial place of one of his victims.
Ever since humans learned to look up they have had a fascination with the heavenly bodies. They learned to use the stars and the Sun as compass guides. They sought to interpret the movements of the constellations. Movements of new stars, comets and other bodies were accepted as portents of good news and bad news. Pagan religions saw in the stars the stories of the gods and interpreted them through the natural events of the annual cycles of the seasons. The Jews saw in them the power and the wisdom of Yahweh and called on the Sun, Moon and stars to bless the Lord. We take up their cry at the beginning of the Christian year with ‘Creator of the Starry height, thy people’s Everlasting Light., Jesus, redeemer of us all, hear Thou thy people when they call’
Christians use the stars and the light as language that enables us to talk about the things of heave. Thus of the saints we sing Who are these like stars appearing? And Mary is Star of the Sea because she points to Jesus, our harbour in the troubled waters of life. The Sun is often used as a metaphor for Jesus – Sun of my soul Thou Saviour dear. Christ whose glory fills the skies, Christ the true the only light, Sun of righteousness arise… God is seen as the Creator and power behind the cosmos; I sing the wisdom that ordained the Sun to rule the day, the Moon shines full at his command and all the stars obey.
In today’s Gospel Jesus points to the heavens as signs of the in breaking of the kingdom of God: There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. 26 People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory. 28 Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
If a schoolboy from MFG had been among the bystanders he might have felt quite pleased with himself when Jesus said; 32 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. He might say to himself ‘If my generation won’t pass away ‘til these things happen I have a long life ahead of me’ for he would have learned in his science class that our Sun is about half-way through its life-span and has about six and a half billion years still to go.
However, the youth would have got it wrong. Jesus was not saying judgement day is a long way off – quite the opposite. John his cousin preached that the Kingdom was near. Jesus saw it as already present in his person – Now is the judgement of this world. The judgement of this world took place in front of Pontius Pilate.
Advent celebrates the first coming of Jesus in weakness and humility. It also looks forward to the Second Coming – the consummation of the victory that began with the walk to Calvary.
In the meantime we live with the blessings won for us by the Cross and Resurrection. This generation actually sees the Kingdom and experiences the judgement. Each of is judged, each of us is cleansed by the gift of repentance, each of us needs that gift. Every pang of conscience, every remembrance of our offences, the times we have hurt someone, the times we have neglected, the times we have ignored. Now is the acceptable time, now is the day of salvation. We are before the throne of judgement. But the throne is a cross, our judge is our saviour. He died to take away our sins to make us like himself.
Heaven’s arches shall ring and the angels shall sing at thy coming to victory. Oh come to my heart Lord Jesus. There is room in my heart for Thee.