Advent is a season of preparation, both for the celebration of the birth of our Lord, and for His appearing again at His second coming. Christmas we can handle. We may get a bit frazzled by last minute details, but we will be ready. But what about Jesus’ coming again? How are we prepared for that? Was Matthew prepared, sitting at the tax collection booth, or James and John in the fishing boat mending their nets, when Jesus looked at them, and simply said, “follow me”? I don’t know if they were or not, but they were obedient and followed Him. Our preparation is not something that we do, but something that we are by God’s grace. It is He who places the desire in our hearts for the Risen Lord above all else. Do we truly hunger and thirst for Jesus, and for the fulfillment of His Kingdom? Is this desire greater than all of our hopes and plans for this life? If so, then we are prepared to greet Him at His appearing.
Everyone is preparing for the megastorm coming up the east coast of the U.S. Weather men are reporting the track of the storm, predicting wind velocity, rain and even snow amounts to watch out for. We’ve seen pictures of the damage the storm has done in the Caribbean Islands. People are stocking up on supplies. All the electric generators in area stores have been sold. Certainly these preparations are necessary, and we do hope that there is no loss of life, and property damage is not extensive. These warnings and preparations have been going on since the storm was first reported in the south Atlantic, as well as the one coming in from the north. We observe these signs, and heed these warnings very carefully, but Scripture has given us other signs and warnings to which we pay little attention. Jesus said to His people, “You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.”(Matthew 16:3) Jesus preached, “Repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand.” Maybe we should be more concerned about the spiritual signs of the times. We confess and believe that Jesus will come again. “Oh, but that could be hundreds of years yet.” Maybe. Maybe not.
In the church’s liturgical calendar, the long Pentecost Season is over and we are beginning Advent, looking forward to the coming of the promised Messiah. Advent always has a two fold meaning, celebrating the birth of Christ, and looking forward to His coming again to reign as King. Much of the Old Testaments prophets spoke in this same tone, the immediate promise of Immanuel, God with us, and the more distant time of the conclusion of all things at the end of God’s plan for earth. We have now been a long time in the first coming of our Lord, a time of ministry, sharing his gracious love throughout the world. Jesus left us with the word to watch, to be expectant each day, that this could be the day of His coming. In that expectancy, to prepare our hearts for the joyful promise of coming into the presence of the living Christ. Advent is a time of preparation, above all a heart preparation of looking for and long the coming of our Lord.
A greeting that we sometimes use among Christians is from Psalm 118:24. One person will say, “This is the day which the LORD has made;” and the other will respond, “Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” It is a good way to start off every day, but it is especially appropriate in this Advent season anticipating the coming of the Christ. Psalm 118 has a prophetic tone, and in the two verses before this exclamation we read, “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone, the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.” (vss.22 & 23) This is the verse Jesus quotes about Himself in Matthew 21:42. Psalm 118:24 is an expression filled with hope, centered in our trust in the Lord’s promises. Jesus has come, and Jesus will come again. This is our joy for each day. This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.