Actively preparing for Christ’s coming – 1st Sunday of Advent

Jesus is coming soon.

When I was a child and a young man, I heard this over and over. From the early 80’s, when I first began to pay attention, I heard various pseudo-scholars prophesy and attempt to explain how Jesus would be here by 1992, or 2000, but certainly not later than 2003, and then everything would change, because Jesus would be king of the world.

As a child and a young man, unconsciously overwhelmed by the burden of growing up and of the tribulation to come, and with a young man’s tendency towards laziness, these apocalyptic prophecies had an unintended consequence.

I wasn’t like the Romans Paul addresses, drunk and licentious, but I was like those Jesus describes in the Gospel readings for this first Sunday of Advent. I was eating and drinking and going to school and to work, just getting through life while I waited for his return. I was pretty sure that since I wasn’t like those people in Romans, he would have mercy upon me, and I’d probably be ok when he finally showed up, so I didn’t take my spiritual life all that seriously, either.

Somehow, I decided that since Jesus is coming soon, I didn’t need to plan for my future, or set and work towards goals. Jesus is coming soon, although we don’t know when, so what’s the point of working towards anything, since soon none of it will matter anyway?

But it does matter, and we are called not to wait passively, but to actively watch and prepare to greet him. Advent is pointless, if we don’t use it to prepare for Christ’s coming, and Christmas is worthless (or at least worth less) if we don’t use it to welcome the Christ.

Isaiah tells us (Isaiah 2) that the Lord will judge and impose terms on the nations, but it is still up to the people to beat their own swords into those plowshares, to put plow to earth, then plant, tend, and harvest.

The psalmist points out that the pilgrim must go up to the city God established, and upon arriving, give thanks and pray for the peace and good of the city. (Psalm 122)

Paul told the Romans (Romans 13) to wake up, and not just set aside the excesses of sin, but throw off darkness and take up light. He calls us to actively participate in being transformed to be like Christ.

Jesus himself told us (Matthew 24:37-44) to stay awake and alert, and prepare for his return. He tells us that to be saved, we do not need to meet any special conditions, or to be in a special position in life: we simply have to be faithful to the Lord in the middle of ordinary everyday affairs. It is in the context of these ordinary affairs of life — business, farmwork, housework, school, play, worship, etc. – that God calls us, and that we respond. This life is where our eternal happiness or eternal punishment is decided. (Navarre commentary Matthew 24:40)

Children obey your parents, so that if Jesus comes back while you’re a child, he can catch you doing something good.

Young people, neglect neither your earthly life, nor your spiritual life, so that you are prepared for his coming any time, whether it is today, for us all, or for you alone, at the end of a long life.

My friends, hold me and one another accountable to being faithful to the Lord in our everyday lives, and for helping our children and grandchildren learn to do the same.

Elders, thank you for your witness, and for showing us how to fall and get up again. Please continue to teach us how to give thanks, and please pray for our eternal peace and for our earthly good.

We don’t know when the Lord will return in glory, or come at our own death to escort us to our eternal destination, but we do know that we are called to wait actively, preparing to greet him joyfully when he comes.

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