Be Aware. Be Alert. Be Ready – A Commentary For Advent

No One Knows That Day and Hour

“But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.

But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

“Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is the servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place their will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

-Matthew 24:36-51

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Sunday marked the beginning of Advent, and my personal favorite time of the year for reflection and prayer. Advent is particularly seen as a time of preparation for the birth of Jesus. It is also a time period for those of us in the northern hemisphere where the days are colder, days are getting shorter, and where your work days begin and end in the dark.

But winter is not just a season of darkness, but also of stillness and quiet. Though we are called everyday of the year, Advent in particular gives us a chance to reconnect with our center, spend time in quiet prayer; and be aware, alert, and ready for the coming of Christ.

The scripture reading above is not popular; it does not make us feel warm and fuzzy and is easily tossed aside because we don’t want to confront the truth – that we will be held accountable for our actions and there will come a time when Jesus comes again.

Furthermore, I think it really shakes up our image of Jesus as this fun loving character; this hippie with long hair, a beard,  is all about peace and love, and doesn’t really care about how you live your life as long as you believe in him. Many people have no problem with the New Testament, but swear off the Old as archaic and filled with a God they want no part of. The New Testament is often seen as containing a God of love, while the Old Testament is riddled with a God of anger and wrath.

The problem is that if we have that preconceived notion, it means we haven’t been reading very carefully. If we see Jesus as just our buddy who never judges our behavior and offers us unconditional love and grace without any hard truths, we’ve been cherry picking his teachings. We come across passages such as the one above and either purposely skip over them or water them down by saying, “Well, he didn’t actually mean it that way…he was just being extreme to make a point.” We must be very careful and make sure we are serving the real Jesus, and not the culturally cool Jesus. The same God who resides in the Old Testament resides in the New.

Jesus warns us that there will be a time of judgement and one person will be left, while the other one taken. he stresses, “Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.” As if the fact that some will be left behind is not scary enough, even more frightening is that I don’t believe he is referring to “good” and “bad” people. If that was the case, there would be little use in giving a long sermon about being alert and ready. For the most part, I think we all know whether we fall into society’s class of “good” or “bad”. No. I don’t think he is preaching to wicked people; he is directing it at believers who are asleep or have not fully given their life over to him.

Being a follower of Jesus is not an easy walk. There are time periods in our lives where it is not convenient socially or personally to stay true to the Gospel. How many times have you desired to develop a closer relationship with God or known you need to change certain behaviors, but you put it off to a later date because you’re too busy, too young, too proud, or not ready yet? I know I have countless times and still continue to use those excuses.

For the overwhelming majority of the population, I think we believe in God, want a relationship with him, and want to be a “good” person; but now is never a good time. We’ll get around to it next year, 10 years from now, when we retire, or before we die. And we are exactly the people Jesus is referring to as the “wicked servant” who puts off his duty and falls into sinful behaviors because “my master is delayed”.

Jesus does not say, “if the Son of Man comes”, but “the Son of Man is coming”. When he does, will I be ready? Personally, I have always wondered how so many of the Jews could deny Jesus when there were prophecies all throughout the scriptures promising that he would come. How could they be right next to him and not know he was the Messiah? I think it’s for the same reason that we believe in him, but don’t alter our behaviors or procrastinate following him – it’s not easy and forces us to let go of our ego and selfish desires. They could not see Jesus for who he was because they were not alert or ready, even though God promised he would come.

God has also promised us that he will come again. Let us not be like the Pharisees, but be ready and be doing the master’s work when he returns. I think we all have a conceived notion of the End of the World as some drawn out event  in which we can quickly change our ways before it’s too late. But in the parable of the servant and the master, Jesus portrays a much different view. We have already been warned that he’s coming, so if we’re not ready it’s because we haven’t listened and are wicked.

It’s not just the End of the World that we have to worry about. No one knows the time of place they’ll die. It could be tomorrow; it could be 50 years from now. But don’t wait to do the master’s work until he surprises you at your door.

I don’t think Jesus used the passage to scare us, but because he loves us. Who lets their child go into a dangerous situation without warning them first? God is no different. He is merely trying to get our attention that we need to not take this lightly and need to be prepared.

During this Advent season, as we prepare for the birth of Christ, let us retreat into the silence and open our minds and hearts to what God is speaking to us. Let us analyze our behaviors and motives, making sure that we are alert and ready for the Light of the World. Let us take this season to finally fully commit our life to Jesus and not put it off any longer, so that we can joyfully embrace the master when he arrives home and not be surprised and ashamed when he knocks at the door.

-Post Written by Justin Farley


 

photo credit: It Snows via photopin (license)

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