Summary: The reality of the world around us is NOT the reality of being a Christ-follower. How do we cultivate this true-sight in a world that is so often blind
One pleasant surprise while in Mexico last month was seeing a total lunar eclipse. It would have been nice to have had Rick’s telescope down there but most nights there was just too much light from the area to really see many stars. Yet, as the moon took on its orange glow from the shadow of the earth passing in front of it something began to happen. More and mores stars became visible. The encroaching darkness actually let us see something that was there all the time but hidden from sight.
Advent is all about Jesus’ coming, both his return and his birth. Yet the world around us treats this season of Christmas as if it were some kind of fanciful foolishness or sentimental sweetness. Even Christ-followers fall into this trap as we are distracted by the world around us. We too can forget what Christ’ return and birth really means. We can miss His Kingdom which has come and is still coming even today.
This first Sunday of Advent is seeing this reality of God. I’d like each of us to start to form in our celebration a tradition that chooses to see and celebrate God’s reality. For Jesus one must remain alert and awake to experience God’s Kingdom. A quick survey shows at least 20 times Jesus uses the idea of being ready, awake, alert, or keeping watch in talking about his return.
One of the stories Jesus tells about this topic is that of the wise and foolish virgins. They are waiting for a bridal parade and celebration to come along. While some were caught up in the excitement of waiting and used their oil up, those Jesus calls “wise” maintain themselves till the right time. They were praised because they were alert and awake and because they managed their resources well. A similar idea is used by Peter in his letter when he wrote “I stirred you up”. His teaching was meant to move the church to action, to get them off of dead center and to have them loose the complacency many had fallen into because of the false prophets. Because of listening to such people they ran a real risk of seeing God’s reality at all.
There are a lot of false prophets out there still today. Many teach “good” things. Jimmy Stewart showed us life is worth living in the movie. It’s a Wonderful Life. Santa is a positive influence on how each of us have a hand in seeing our economy expand and grow without an inflationary risk. We learn that those who are different contribute to our reality too as we see how Rudolph: the red-nosed reindeer is used to save Christmas. The Grinch and Scrooge teach no one is beyond redemption and change. And of course Charlie Brown is a tool that demonstrates that all this reality really needs are friends. There is nothing wrong with such lessons. Our world needs to hear them; but as good and needful as they are they are a poor substitute for the reality that God offers us.
How do we see God’s Realty? How do we look past the various “lights” in our world and develop a tradition of seeing God’s reality? Look in the right direction is a start. Halley’s Comet made its last approach while we were in Hawthorne. If you drove out of town and used binoculars you could see it. Otherwise you’d miss it. Our Christmas wise men are examples of those whose life was dedicated to looking in the right direction. Do you ever think about the fact that it was Gentile stargazers who saw God’s reality while those who should have been looking for God’s coming missed it?
Even if you’re looking in the right place you need to stay alert and awake so you are ready when the time comes. Part of this alertness is found in managing your resources. The virgins had oil that they had to make last till the bridegroom came. Could I suggest that the resources we have to use wisely isn’t just money but our time, energy, focus, skills and talents, and even the attitude with which we face Christ’s coming. We can use them on activities and interests that rooted in our reality or in God’s reality. In HGTV’s show Designer’s Final a homeowner shows a real sense of bravery by letting a student designer do their first “real world” work on their home. In one episode the homeowner was a personal trainer and he said something about the changes they were facing. He said, “Radical transformations take radical changes”.
If you’re at the point where you need to get in physical shape, he’s right. You can’t do things the same way. If you want a different approach to the way you do your job. You can’t do things the same way. Jobs, our bodies, our lives, our recreation, even our finances take radical, root level changes, if these parts of our life are going to be different. It’s no different with our spiritual life. Charlie Peacock, a songwriter has a great song called, In the Light.