Our culture thinks that Christmas begins with Black Friday (or even earlier!), but in the Church, we do not celebrate Christmas until Christmas!
Sunday begins the season of Advent, preparing for the coming of Jesus. He came first in a stall in a backwater village of a nuisance province of the Roman empire. And He comes again in great glory at the end of time!
If it seems like we just heard about this, we did. Last Sunday ended the Church year celebrating Christ the King and pointing to Jesus as King at the end of time. The First Sunday of Advent looks to His second coming, to reign as King! The remaining three Sundays of Advent look to Jesus first coming in that stall.
Though the Biblical images of Jesus’ return are often frightening and confusing, that is not Jesus’ purpose. In fact, He wants us to be prepared rather than taken by surprise. Like many things in life, that for which we are unprepared is that which brings fear. When I was in school and had prepared well for a test, or written a good paper, I had little fear. But if I had prepared poorly or written sloppily, I had great fear!
We prepare for Jesus’ coming in the same ways we always have, and we can’t do it overnight. If I may switch metaphors mid-stream, a great football team does not become great just by learning a good game strategy or a day of practice. It takes years of often boring, repetitious and sometimes painful preparation. Preparing well for a test requires not one all-nighter, but a steady pattern of study and reflection to master the subject.
Preparing for Jesus’ return will not come in one sermon or one Bible reading but in a longterm investment in prayer, Bible reading, worship and service. It is by this engagement that the promise if Jesus’ return is a promise of joy rather than fear, and a truth that gives shape and direction to our lives.
Make this Advent a serious one and engage God in preparation!
This column appeared in the December 2, 2018 edition of St. John’s eNews. Click here for the complete issue.
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