Summary: The Advent season provides us a time to reflect and prepare for our Lord’s coming, not just at Christmas, but today, and at the end of time
Be alert, Jesus tells us. Good advice, as there are now only 25 shopping days until Christmas. Being alert will give you the edge to make this the best Christmas ever. Being alert will allow you to hunt out and sneak into the only vacant parking space in the entire parking lot. Being alert will keep you from missing that last minute sale, and help you grab the last “Super Sally Sniffer doll” off the shelf before the other frantic shoppers even realize that it’s still there. Yes, be alert, Jesus says. Be alert, that you will not be caught off guard in the busyness and distraction of the holiday season. Be alert, you can get all your shopping done, with time left to breathe before Christmas.
But wait! Into your shopping interrupts the Word of the Lord: “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. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” (Luke 21:25-27) This does not sound like a “midnight madness special.”
As we begin a new church year, we hear the promises of our Lord’s coming. The expectation that we feel in these days before Christmas shouldn’t be caused because we’re excited that Santa is coming, but that Jesus is coming. In the midst of uncertain events going on in the heavens and on the earth, we hear the promise that the Son of Man is on his way. Jesus calls to us from the future and assures us, “Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near.” (Luke 21:29-31) We can have hope in these uncertain times, because they are signs that cause us to hope, not to despair.
Jesus tells us that we can have hope in the midst of difficult times. The signs are all around us: wars, uncertain financial times, and natural disasters, people distraught by the events that are happening around them. With all this going on, people often feel that they have no control in their lives, no way to steer their ship out of the rocky shoal and into the safety of the harbor. Jesus tells us that we can stand firm and hold up our heads. Yes, there are signs around us, but they don’t need to make us fearful, as they make other people fearful. The signs lead, not to the end, but to the beginning. The signs lead, not to destruction, but to wholeness. God’s salvation is at hand! Stand firm in the Lord!
It’s like going into surgery. It’s difficult to prepare for, difficult for the body to go through, and can be difficult to recover from. Certainly not a pleasant thing, not something that you’d choose to do just for fun, or because you’ve got an extra storehouse of cash burning a hole in your pocket. The goal of surgery is not to make a person feel worse, but to make them better, to fix what’s wrong.
The signs that are happening around us are not supposed to make us lose heart, but to be strengthened in our walk of faith. In the midst of the heavens and earth being shaken, we can rejoice in the Lord. We endure these times, as unpleasant and downright atrocious as they may be, because we have a God who will see us through. We have a God who will not abandon us in the midst of the roaring of the sea, but will be “coming with power and great glory.” We endure these times, because we do not endure them alone. We can stand firm in the midst of the signs, because our salvation is at hand! Jesus encourages us, “Be alert, praying that you may have the strength [with God at your side] to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.” (Luke 21:36)
“Be alert” is more than just looking out for last minute sales, more than just grabbing the last “Super Sally Sniffer doll” off the shelf, more that getting that coveted parking spot. “Be Alert” means looking, looking for God’s peace in the quiet moments of a frantically busy holiday season, looking for God’s love in the eyes of a stranger, looking for opportunities to show others that all is not lost in this sorry world.