Summary: We aren’t called to star gaze
Story: In the late 19th Century in America, there was a wave of enthusiasm for prophecies predicting the actual date for Christ’s Second Coming.
One such prophet was an Adventist leader William Miller (1782-1849). And it is in his movement that both the JW’s and the Seventh Day Adventists find their roots.
Miller first predicted that Christ would return on 21st March 1842, but then revised the date to April 3, 1843. Over 3,500 of his followers jammed the Boston Advent Temple, only to be disappointed.
You might have thought that the movement would have died. But it didn’t. Rather it continued to grow.
Miller decided to recalculate his date for the
Second Coming and soon publicised a new
date - April 18, 1844. When the messiah did not show up on that date, there was again frustration and some followers left the Adventist ranks.
Undeterred by these failures, Miller came up with a third date - 22nd October 1844. The date was publicized as the Millerite publication True Midnight Cry. And, surprisingly, this third date surprisingly rallied his followers.
They began to spread the news of the new date of the second coming with an enthusiasm that had not seen before. Churches which did not accept this message were denounced as agents of “Babylon.” and the devil
And - despite opposition from established, mainline religious groups -, thousands of people – including many clergy – began to defect to the Millerite cult.
As doomsday approached, the Millerites began to prepare.
One account notes that “Fields were left unharvested, shops were closed, people quit their jobs, paid their debts, and freely gave away their possessions with no thought of repayment.”
Huge press runs of Advent publications like The Midnight Cry warned the public that “The Time Is Short”. “Prepare to Meet Thy God!” and “The Lord is Coming!”
William Miller himself began peddling white “ascension robes” to the faithful, many of whom waited for the miraculous event in freshly dug graves.
But as we all know, the Second Coming did not occur on 22nd October 1844.
In fact if they had heeded this morning’s Gospel,they would not have been taken in by Miller’s false prophecy.
For Jesus speaking about the Second Coming said:
32"No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. (Mk 13)
When I looked at the Lectionary reading for today I wondered what on earth does a passage - that majors on the Second Coming of Christ - have to do with Advent!!!
For many of us, Advent is a time when we look forward to the Birth of Jesus two thousand years ago in a stable in Bethlehem.
However it is also the time we look forward to Christ’s Second Coming
As I reflected on the meaning of Advent, I found myself drawn to three themes in the Gospel passage. Themes that I think are useful to reflect on during Advent.
1. He is coming again
The first of these themes was that, as we prepare to remember Jesus’s coming to this earth two thousand years ago as a baby in Bethlehem - so we can look forward to his Second Coming in glory - one day.
And that is something special to look forward to.
Jesus said, speaking about his Second Coming:
26"At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.
The great Christian hope that HE WILL COME AGAIN and he will usher in a new heaven and a new earth, where there will be no more tears, no more suffering and
Jesus will be the light in our midst. (Rev 21 and 22)
Perhaps we should live our lives, all the year round, as an ADVENT preparing for that event.
2. God has work for us to do on earth.
The second of these themes was that God still has work for us to do on earth.
We are called to live our Christian life in our communities – loving our neighbours as ourselves – sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ with our neighbours.
In our Gospel reading today, Jesus had this to say about the time in which we are living - leading up to the Second Coming:
34It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with his assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.
35"Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back--whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. 36If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping.