Summary: Advent is a season when we look forward to the coming of Jesus, both His first coming born in Bethlehem and his second coming in power and great glory - are we ready? 'Be on your guard.' ‘KEEP AWAKE!
LOOK FORWARD, NOT BACK
Today we start a new Christian year and that is marked in our lectionary by our gospel readings coming from St. Mark.
Mark is unusual as it is the only synoptic gospel which does not give an account of the birth of Jesus.
But it does speak of when Jesus will come again which ironically is the primary focus of the NT.
In today's reading, Jesus told a story about a man who was travelling abroad, and left his servants in charge of his affairs.
He told them that he would be coming back, but He did not tell them when. It could be any hour of any day.
In the meantime their responsibility was to take care of his affairs, and live in constant expectation of his return. His departing words were, 'Be on your guard.' ‘KEEP AWAKE!’
It is commonly assumed that Jesus was speaking of Himself. He was telling His followers that He would be going away, but He would also be coming back, and they should be constantly watching for His return.
The early Church rejoiced that Christ had come the first time, but they rejoiced even more that He was coming again.
Sadly, we have lost this emphasis. We need it now just as much as the first disciples needed it then.
When you look around our world and see the grip evil has on it, you could say we live in very discouraging times.
To carry forward the mission of Christ in this modern world is an uphill battle against insurmountable odds.
The early Christians faced a similar situation, but kept their hearts encouraged with the hope of Jesus coming again.
The most exciting part of their faith was not what had been, but what was going to be.
The birth of Jesus in Bethlehem was only the beginning. Now something radical and revolutionary was going to happen.
Christ would be coming again, turning the world upside down, and creating a new heaven and a new earth.
The disciples believed life on earth is a real drama, with a real plot and that the climax of the story would be the final and complete victory of God over Satan.
That is how the first followers of Jesus thought about His advent. It would do something wonderful for you and me, if we could discover even a little of that forward-looking faith.
This forward-looking faith can serve as a constant reminder that our hope lies in the future and not in the past.
Deep inside all of us there is a tendency to cling to familiar ways of thinking and to look behind us for the solutions to our problems.
But in a rapidly changing world, that can prove to be a disastrous kind of living.
It might be compared to driving a car with one's eyes constantly fixed on the rear-view mirror.
The only safe way to drive a car is to pay careful attention to what lies behind, but the driver's primary focus must be on the road ahead.
That's also the only wise way to go through life. We must learn from the past without becoming its prisoner. Being in touch with the past and open to the future is the secret of true wisdom.
We know our faith is firmly rooted in the past, but it looks with expectant eyes to the future. The birth of Jesus at Bethlehem was only the beginning.
The theme of the apostle's preaching was that Christ is coming again, and again, and again. He is here with us now.
He is knocking on the door of everyone's heart and saying, 'Won't you invite me in? Let me fire your heart with my love?
You must be my instrument to set the world on fire.' Are we listening to His voice and letting Him come again into our lives?
If we are always living in the past we shall miss His coming now. Christ will keep on coming until 'the kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord Jesus Christ and He will reign forever.'
'Be on your guard.' ‘KEEP AWAKE!’
Karl Barth said, "We can’t fathom the Second Advent of Jesus Christ, and we stammer when we try to speak of it." (Illustration contributed by Robert Leroe on Dec 31, 2012)