On Sunday, my pastor, Larry Wright, preached on a wonderful subject to begin the Advent season: preparation for the second coming of Jesus Christ. The liturgical selection was Luke 21:25-36; Larry used the NIV, but I’ll used the ESV for my own reasons:
Luke 21:25-36 (English Standard Version)
The Coming of the Son of Man
25“And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, 26people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
The Lesson of the Fig Tree
29And he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. 30As soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near. 31So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. 32Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all has taken place. 33Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
34“But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. 35For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”
This past year has had many question whether God is bringing down His wrath on the Earth, and some have questioned whether the tsunami in December 2004 and all the hurricanes of 2005 are the “distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves”. The answer is, well, “Who knows?” I certainly don’t. None will be sure until we “see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory” … which might happen in my lifetime, and then might not.
But the lesson of all this for society is simple—semper paratus, always being prepared. This not only serves as a reminder for society, which would do well to be prepared for all these emergencies, but as a call to renewal for us Christians, who should always be ready for Christ’s return. [It’s easy to say that many of us, myself included, routinely fail at this preparation.]
The Advent season in the liturgical calendar is all about preparing ourselves for the coming of the Savior into the world, God sending His Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but to redeem it. One may consider the brief time between Christmas and Easter—usually four to five months, not even half the year!—to be emblematic of Jesus of Nazareth’s short time on this Earth, both as a man and even more in His brief ministry. When one thinks that Billy Graham’s ministry is far longer than Jesus of Nazareth’s very life, it puts things into perspective a little—we had Jesus as man for just a brief speck of histor, but we have Jesus as risen Savior for eternity.
The coming of Christ is a reminder that Death has lost its sting, and that it will do so again. As we remember this, we must also remember that all our groanings and failings will one day all be made whole when our blessed Savior returns. May we all prepare as earnestly for that day as we do for the day we’ll have fellowship with our families on the last Sunday in December 2005.