Summary: Our Advent Gospel today reminds us that i) one day Jesus will return in glory and that we are living in the ADVENT of that time 2. that Jesus wants us to go on living as if he was coming tomorrow - to be on RED ALERT. 3. Jesus wants us to be on our guard
TSJ/TSL 03-12 -17
Lew Slade records the scene in his sermon entitled : The Second Coming
"It is just before midnight on October 22 1844.
Come with me to a hillside just outside New York.
It’s a balmy evening and we are standing in an enormous crowd numbering upwards of 100 000 men, women and children.
All around us there is the low buzz of whispered voices as men exchange stories of how they have sold their homes, given up their jobs or abandoned their farms to be here.
An almost tangible air of expectation hangs over the gathering.
Standing at the top of the hill is a lone figure – his name is William Miller – and most of the eyes
in the crowd are trained on him.
He is their leader.
He is the man who has spent years studying the prophecies in the Book of Daniel and has predicted the second coming of Christ at midnight on this day.
Needless to say midnight comes and goes and slowly, sadly, certainly reluctantly, the crowd begins to drift away.
Some, who have wagered their entire livelihoods on the truth of Miller’s words, hesitate a little longer looking skywards expecting at any moment that they will see, in Jesus’ own words, the “Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.”
But as we know, it was not to be.
And now, rather than looking to the Old Testament prophets to give us a clue to the future, we believe the words of Jesus when he says,
“No-one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.""
(My thanks to Lew Slade https://www.sermoncentral.com/sermons/the-second-coming-lew-slade-sermon-on-second-coming-102837?ref=SermonSerps for this version of the well known story)
What was so incredible to me was that that was the FOURTH time Miller had prophesied the return of Jesus.
The first date Miller prophesied was 21st March 1842.
Then he revised the date to 3rd April 1843.
When that was a “no show” he revised it again to 18th April 1844.
And his final prophecy was 22nd October 1844.
Having been wrong three times already, I am utterly surprised why anyone believed him for a fourth time.
But this is what one account notes
“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.”
If you are interested in the Second Coming of Christ it is essential to know what Jesus himself said on the matter.
32 “But no one knows about that day or hour. Not even the angels in heaven know. The Son does not know. Only the Father knows. (Mk 13:32)
Popularily, Advent is a time when we look forward to the Birth of Jesus two thousand years ago in a stable in Bethlehem.
So when I first looked at the Lectionary reading for today I wondered what does passage that majors on the Second Coming of Christ - have to do with Advent!!!
An article in Christianity explained the history behind Advent as this:
The word “Advent” is derived from the Latin word adventus, meaning “coming,” which is a translation of the Greek word parousia.
"Scholars believe that during the 4th and 5th centuries in Spain and Gaul, Advent was
i) a season of preparation for the baptism of new Christians at the January feast of Epiphany,
ii) the celebration of God’s incarnation represented by the visit of the Magi to the baby Jesus (Matthew 2:1),
iii) his baptism in the Jordan River by John the Baptist (John 1:29), and
iv) his first miracle at Cana (John 2:1).
During this season of preparation, Christians would spend 40 days in penance, prayer, and fasting to prepare for this celebration; originally, there was little connection between Advent and Christmas.
By the 6th century, however, Roman Christians had tied Advent to the coming of Christ.
But the “coming” they had in mind was not Christ’s first coming in the manger in Bethlehem, but his second coming in the clouds as the judge of the world.
It was not until the Middle Ages that the Advent season was explicitly linked to Christ’s first coming at Christmas.
Today, the season of Advent lasts for four Sundays leading up to Christmas.
At that time, the new Christian year begins with the twelve-day celebration of Christmastide, which lasts from Christmas Eve until Epiphany on January 6. (Advent begins on the Sunday that falls between November 27th and December 3rd each year.) (https://www.christianity.com/christian-life/christmas/what-is-advent.html)
So not only is it a time to look forward to the birth of Christ bit it is also the time we look forward to Christ's Second Coming.
But as I reflected on that meaning of Advent, I found myself drawn to three ideas in the Gospel passage.