Here are a few of the texts assigned to the Sundays of Advent from the past three weeks:
"There will be signs in the sun, the moon and the stars, and on earth distress among nations " Words of Jesus from Luke 21:25 on the 1st Sunday of Advent.
A voice of one crying out in the wilderness" Luke 3:4, quoting the prophet Isaiah on the 2nd Sunday of Advent.
"You brood of vipers, who told you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits worth of repentance." Words of John the Baptist from Luke 3:7 on the 3rd Sunday of Advent.
A lonely voice crying words of warning. A call to repentance and change of behavior. A pointing to signs as a portent of our future destruction. I wonder, are we talking about the gospel lessons from the Sundays in Advent or are these reports coming out of the United Nations Climate Change conference?
It is at least interesting how the rhetoric of climate change mirrors the texts of Advent. Many of the texts assigned to this season speak of watching and waiting: watching for the signs, waiting for the coming of God. The expectation is that at the coming of God, the world will end - or at least the world as we know it. The announcement of God's advent is a warning to some to change their sinful ways and to prepare to meet God. For others, God's advent is received in hope, a time when the promises of God's salvation will be fulfilled.
In the rhetoric of climate change, the present is a time of waiting for an expected future. It is a time of watching for the signs, and for interpretation of signs. It is a time of warning, that the future will be catastrophic if we do not change our ways. All themes that are present in the scripture texts assigned for Advent.
There are some who believe climate change is one of the signs of the coming of the end of the world and the second coming of Christ. There is no need to change or repent from using fossil fuels, or to cap C02 emissions, those who take this position reason, for global warming is just one of the ways God will bring this world to an end.
The message of Advent is quite the opposite, I believe. The message is one of hope that the future is securely in God's hands, and we only need to trust in God. Then, with our lives secure through hope, we are free to do what God created us to do: be stewards of the gifts God has given us, including stewards of our environment. Therefore, we will work hard to reverse the trend of global warming by changing our ways, not to avert disaster, or to appease a God who may end the world if we don't shape up, but because it is the right thing to do for the care of the earth.
Martin Luther was once asked what he would do if he knew the world was going to end tomorrow. "Plant a tree," was his reply. To plant a tree is to both tend to the gifts God has given us now and to entrust the future to God. Besides, the tree will help lower the CO2 in the atmosphere and help reduce global warming!