“But in those days, following that distress, “‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’“At that time people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.“Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near.Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it is near, right at the door.Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.Be on guard! Be alert[c]! You do not know when that time will come.It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.“Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn.If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping.What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’”
In the days of Advent, as we wait for Christmas we should take time to remind ourselves that God wants us to rise to the life He intends us to know and to enjoy. Advent is a time of preparation. In our day and age Christmas, with all its extravagance, has all but removed Advent off the map altogether. This reading starts with one of those predictions of the way things will be when the end is nearly upon the world. Perhaps the truth is there are always indications that the world is not as it should be. We are called to wait expectantly for the day that Jesus has promised. We have let the idea of the Second Coming of Christ slip to the back of our thinking. I wonder how central it is in our faith journey today. Yet Jesus did promise that he would return one day, and in Advent we should be aware that we are not only awaiting our celebration of his first coming in the Babe of Bethlehem, but also his coming again at the end of time to usher in the Kingdom as he promised. Remember what it was like as a wee boy or girl waiting for the arrival of Christmas. There was a great deal of excitement. There was the worry that, perhaps Santa Claus would not come, or would not bring the toy, or game, or book that we so eagerly wanted. As December passed by the level of anticipation rose until, on the night of Christmas Eve, many children were then, and are still, unable to get to sleep. I wonder if that was anything like the attitude of the People of God as they waited for the coming of the Messiah? Were they a people literally quivering with excitement anticipating their liberation and vindication at the hands of God? This was very much part of their understanding of what God would do for them, they were attuned to waiting for God to act on their behalf. I imagine something of their patience was firmly grounded in their history. I also imagine there were the not so patient ones, who were eager to make things happen. The People of God believed that ill favour befell them when they didn’t live up to God’s demands of them. Whether it was travelling through the Exile, or enduring the Roman occupation, they thought that their misfortune was the result of God’s displeasure. Only when their penance had been served, would vindication come. They didn’t doubt that they would be vindicated. They were sure that God would act for them. Today do we still carry that same kind of message? We believe this because of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, who came that first Christmas to bring us back into a right relationship with the God who made us and who loves us. I believe that, because of Jesus, God forgives us when we are truly repentant, and will continue to love us. Perhaps repentance is a concept that we have moved away from in our society. “Sorry” is said lightly, and only when someone has been found out. We live in a world and a society which has come to expect only good. A society that was so sure of itself and the control it had over the world it would quite comfortably predict what tomorrow will bring without as much as a smidgeon of second thought. It was beyond the big thinkers of our time to doubt unending economic growth with increasing prosperity and greater comfort in the world through the years. Of course none of us need to be told that this year has thrown an almighty spanner in that works. Until the early part of this year everything had become so predictable in life that to speak out with a message that jarred with the mainstream would be different enough that it could be easily dismissed. I suspect that this is why Advent may have lost its potency. Christmas appears to have gate crashed its forerunner and taken over by at least midway through. Jesus calls us to watch and to wait, and to be ready. Will Christmas rush towards us again this year and find us unprepared, when Christ comes we are not ready to receive him. The message of Advent calls us to look to what is important. It reminds us that we can be assured of God’s love, for it was in love He came among us in Christ. Jesus assures us of God’s forgiveness; hope and strength are ours through him.