This morning marks our annual reminder as we begin the Advent season: “Be prepared!”
Preparation always kicks off the season of Advent within Christianity . . . we hear the scripture readings of the Old and New Testaments telling us to be prepared . . . be prepared for the coming of the Lord . . . be prepared for the new kingdom . . . and, be prepared because no one knows when or where any of this is going to take place. Christianity has been hearing this message for over two thousand years, and this morning we hear it one more time.
Who among us, upon hearing such news, would not like to know when this so-called “end time” is going to come? The disciples certainly wanted to know— “Hey, Jesus . . . give us some signs so we can be ready!” And, Jesus more than willing gave them some signs . . . wars and conflicts . . . natural disasters . . . false prophets . . . false words . . . false promises . . . strife . . . poverty . . . homelessness . . . despair. Then he tells them that these “signs” will be present in any and every generation . . . so, be prepared. Be prepared because “no one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”
The bottom line is . . . no one knows. No one knows when the end will come, and the new will begin . . . no one! We know the signs, but the signs have been there forever. We have heard these words every year as we enter the season of Advent . . . but, nothing has changed. It is like a continual game of the boy crying wolf and no one believing him any longer. Nothing ever changes . . . so, why bust a butt being prepared?
I think that is what has happened with those of us who follow Jesus . . . we have lost the sense of expectation and urgency in our journeys of faith. We are just cruising along, letting life happen, and not preparing for something that can happen at any moment. We are not being “alert”. And, probably with good reason. The signs of the end have always been there . . . they don’t even phase us anymore. It is business as usual. Yet, Jesus keeps showing up every year with the same old message . . . be prepared!
And are we? Being prepared?
Many would shake their heads “yes” and think to themselves, “Of course I am. I have purchased all the Christmas gifts, baked, wrapped and frozen all of the Christmas goodies, gotten boxes filled and ready to send to families afar, put up the decorations and even have all the Christmas cards ready to mail!
But we miss the point, as advent is about so much more than the commercialism of Christmas today. It is not only the anticipation of Christ’s coming as the infant Jesus in a stable in Bethlehem we celebrate, but also the advent of His return.
The “signs” of the end are all around us. If you were to take this morning’s newspaper and read it from front to back, you would probably find just about every “sign” of the end that Jesus spoke about. They are all there . . . every day. But, are we ready? Are we prepared? Are we going about the work that God expects us to do?
I believe that from the very beginning, Jesus knew how things were going to turn out in his ministry and life. Yet, He didn’t hole up in some cave and wait it out. Instead, he kept on doing what it was that God expected him to do . . . he kept on preaching, teaching, healing, and performing miracles. He kept trying to bring God’s kingdom to the people . . . especially those who were at the bottom of the heap.
This was his way of preparing himself for the end as he knew it would be. This was his “way” of being ready . . . dealing with what was there. Jesus knew that there was nothing that He could do about yesterday—it was gone; there was nothing he could do about tomorrow—it had not happened; all he could deal with was the present moment – loving God completely and loving others. He was being a “alert” to God’s presence in the world around him and doing what he could to fulfill that promise.
So it is with us, as the followers of Jesus. We are to be prepared. We are to be prepared by being a “alert” . . . alert to the presence of God around us in the world that we live in.
And it is all around us; however, the question becomes, how do we respond to the signs of war and conflict? How do we respond to the natural disasters that shake the world and inflict so much damage upon so many? How do we respond to strife and discord? How do we respond to the poor, the hungry, the homeless, the sick and dying? How do we respond to those who are lost, forgotten, and unwanted? How do we respond to the presence of a suffering God who desires nothing more than a relationship—an intimate relationship with each of us.
How do we do this?
We do this by being aware of God’s presence in the world around us . . . more of us being active in relating to that presence that we encounter on a daily basis . . . more of us looking less for “signs” and embracing the work that needs to be done now in bringing God’s kingdom into reality.
So, as we begin the Advent season, we are reminded once again, that we are to be prepared – not in the sense of our busyness, buying, baking, cooking, wrapping, planning – but in prayer and introspection as we celebrate His birth and await His coming again.
Your heart is where Christ wishes to dwell, and Advent is the perfect time to make room in it for His presence. If your heart is filled with unforgiveness, jealousy, hate, greed…it has no room for Christ.
It is in doing God’s will in every opportunity that arises that is the preparation Jesus is speaking. That is the only way we can be prepared. All that any of us can do is to do God’s will here and now; love without ceasing; care without boundaries, listen with love and live in Christ’s image.
So, let us heed this call to preparation once again. Let us prepare ourselves for the moment. Let us embrace the present.
There is no gift waiting for us at the end of the four weeks of Advent . . . the gift has been given. Let us embrace the gift and begin living in preparation for what is now and is to come . . . God’s presence calling out to us to love. To love God . . . to love one another . . . to love all of God’s family.
There is plenty to do – plenty to love right now.