A man and his wife were vacation in Indonesia. He was standing on the beach taking photos of a volcanic island off shore. Suddenly he saw a wall of water rolling in across the bay. He had to turn and flee inland to save his life. Things can happen in just that manner. Some shepherds were sitting around the evenings campfire guarding their flock on a normal day like hundreds of other days before it. Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared to them announcing the birth a baby, a very special baby, in the nearby village of Bethlehem. The lives of the mother and father of that baby had been turned completely around by the announcement of that unexpected birth. And that child, the Lord Jesus Christ, when grown promised that He would be coming again suddenly and unexpectedly to complete God’s plan for mankind. How does one prepare for such sudden and unexpected events? I don’t know that there is a particular preparation for a tsunami, but a life lived in a humble and trusting relationship with the Lord is the daily preparation to which we are all called.
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.
Well, the run will be on today for milk, bread, and toilet paper. People are going to the stores ahead of the snow storm predicted to blanket parts of the eastern U.S. It always happens. People rush to be prepared. Jesus once said, “You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.”(Mathew 16:3) With all of our technology, we do a marvelous job (sometimes) of predicting the weather. We prepare for what is coming by wearing the right clothes, taking an umbrella, picking up extra items, whatever is needed. Yet we fail in the one area that is important above all, understanding the times we live in. In these times mankind has grown far from the purpose for which God created us. Both Old and New Testaments speak of the time when Christ would return to earth. Jesus taught us that we should watch, and be prepared. This is not by building shelters and stockpiling food, but preparing our hearts. He is looking for hearts that are set on Him in love, and longing for His presence. We are to live each day by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and in showing His love through our actions to others. That is our greatest preparation, and today really could be the day.
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.