This would appear to be obvious. The question that consumed the Israelites was, “When would God send the Messiah/Deliverer that He had long promised? The prophets were full of prophecies and predictions about when and where the Messiah would appear. Sounds eerily like today, doesn’t it? Our world today is obsessed with the second coming of Jesus. Predictions abound as to when this event will take place. But then that’s nothing new. In every era of human history since Jesus’s ascension into heaven, people have believed they were living in the end times and that Jesus’s return was imminent. So the question persists today – “When is Jesus coming back?” People want to know so that they can be prepared, I guess.
This would seem to be the logical question of Advent because when you are preparing for someone’s arrival, you want to know how much time you have left to get ready to receive them. You want to know when they will arrive. Regarding Jesus’s ETA, we are given an answer in God’s word, but it is not an answer that stops us from continuing to ask this same question again and again, to the exclusion of other, perhaps more important questions. Our answer is found in Matthew 24:36 –
“No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”
We are told clearly that we cannot know when Jesus will return to earth. But perhaps this is not the all important question of Advent, even though it might seem so to us. Could it be that the true question of Advent was posed by Jesus Himself when He asked His disciples this –
“However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?”
That’s the true question of Advent – not, “when is Jesus coming?” but “will He find faith here when He arrives?” In other words, will Jesus find anyone faithful to Him when He returns? Will He find people watching, waiting, believing, preparing the way for His entrance, doing the work He entrusted to us to do until His return – (“go, make disciples of all nations”) – will He find us faithful? I take this question very personally. Will Jesus find me faithful?
As I prepare to remember and to celebrate God’s gift to humankind, I will let this question guide me through this Advent season. In the midst of decorating, shopping, wrapping, baking etc. I want to be found faithfully fulfilling the tasks God has given me to do for Him. As I celebrate now the first Advent of God’s presence here on earth, I am simultaneously preparing for the second Advent of His coming to earth, even though I don’t have any idea when that will be. It’s like this story Jesus told His disciples –
“It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with his 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!’ ” (Mark 13:34-37)
That’s what Advent requires of me – that I watch! I am to anxiously await and expectantly anticipate my Master’s return. Waiting for his return is not a time of idleness but of activity. In Jesus’s story each servant had an assigned task. I do too. I want to be found faithfully executing my God given tasks when Jesus does return. What a privilege that the Master would trust me to take care of His house and business while He is away. If I have let dust and clutter accumulate in His absence, I need to be cleaning and clearing space in readiness for His return. If weeds and brush have overgrown the path to His home, I need to prepare the way for Him to return.
Such are the duties of Advent. The wait for the Master’s return may grow long but I do not give up hope that He will come. I believe in spite of the circumstances that surround me and I prepare as if His appearance is imminent. Noah obeyed and built the ark even though he was surrounded by dry land. He stayed faithful even though his circumstances didn’t make sense. Advent requires faith – faith that the long expected Jesus will arrive when the time is right, just like He did the first time.
“But when the time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.” (Galatians 4:4-5)
God’s timing is always perfect. It seems much of Israel had grown weary with the wait and fallen asleep. Their lights had gone out and their hearts had grown cold. Maybe that’s why they were unable to recognize and to receive God’s Son when He finally arrived on that first Christmas. Maybe that’s why we remember and celebrate Jesus’s first Advent, so that we will be better prepared for His second one. Maybe it is so we learn the lessons of the first Advent which will remind us never to lose hope, but being steadfast in belief, to be always waiting, watching and preparing ourselves and our world for Jesus to enter in, just as the faithful servants in Jesus’s story were preparing for their master’s return, even though they did not know the day nor the hour.
Advent prepares the way for Jesus to be welcomed in once again, especially into those places where He has been previously crowded out, locked out, kicked out, overlooked, ridiculed and rejected. Advent opens the door so Jesus can enter in.
“Lift up your heads, O you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O you gates; lift them up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is He, this King of glory? The Lord Almighty – He is the King of glory.” (Psalm 24:7-10)
lift them up! let Him in!
sincerely, Grace Day