It is a time of anticipation, anticipation of the coming of God into the world at Christmas;
and ... at the end of time.
Isaiah, the great prophet of the Old Testament, calls out to God:
Oh, that you would
rend the heavens
and come down
with the mountains quaking before you,
while you wrought
There is a little part in all of us that wants God to come down from heaven and do something dramatic to forcefully set the world straight. There is something deep within us that really does want God to come to fix the world; to show us He knows what this life is like right now. So with the prophet we call out: “God please come down and set this crazy world straight!”
The beauty of the Advent season is that we are reminded that God did come down. Just not in a way we might have thought he would. That's what this season is all about, it’s about celebrating the day God did come down – as a gentle child – as one of us. Advent is about appreciating what happened on Christmas day.
A few weeks ago, I was reading a children’s book to my granddaughter and I realized the story represented perfectly what happened when God chose to come to our rescue. The story was about a grandfather who found his grandson jumping up and down in his playpen crying at the top of his voice. When little Johnnie saw his grandpa, he reached out his chubby little hands and said, "Out, Gramps, out." The grandfather reached down to lift his grandson out of his predicament but as he did he heard Johnnie's mom stepped up and say, "No, Johnnie, you are being punished. You have to stay in your playpen." The grandfather didn't know what to do. His grandson's tears reached deep into his heart. However, mom's firmness couldn't be taken lightly. But love found a way. Grandpa could not take his grandson out of the playpen so instead he climbed in with the little boy.
It struck me when I was reading this children’s story that that is exactly what Jesus did for us at Christmas. Christ Jesus left heaven for earth and climbed in with us. God came down. The Word was made flesh. God in Christ joined us in our need.
God did tear open the heavens. Just not in the way we expected. God came down and walked as one of us. God came down and wasn't angry. God came down and through an infant said, "I love you. I share your pain.”
But, Advent is not just a time when we recall that God sent us a Savior in Jesus on Christmas day. It is much more than that. Advent is also a time when we recall that Jesus will return at a time we least expect. That’s what Mark tells us in today’s gospel: “Be on watch. Be alert” If Jesus comes suddenly, he must not find you asleep.
You and I live in the important interval between Jesus’ first coming and anticipating his second coming. And what are we to do as we wait? Our job is to complete the work he gave us to do. As the reading says, “You do not know when the time will come. It is like a man traveling abroad. He leaves home and places his servants in charge, each with his own work. We each have a role to play as we await the master’s return, as we await Jesus return. Before returning to his Father, Jesus told us what this work is. He said: “Go, then, to all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples: baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
Advent is a time when we check on how well we are following this command.
Advent is a time when we call to mind, in a special way, that Jesus came to tell us of God’s love; to show us God’s love; and then, commissioned us to spread that love.
When Jesus returns he will judge us on how well we did. On how well we worked to spread God’s kingdom on earth. That’s what we need to think about these next few weeks.
How are we doing ... ?
Will he find us sleeping; or, spreading his kingdom of love?