Read: Matthew 24: 36-44
Meditation: “Keep Watch!”
Christmas pageants and parties may blunt our realization that the Christian year begins (in all three lectionary cycles) with Christ’s second advent, not his first. We tell the Gospel story against the backdrop of Jesus’ return, not his birth. The climax of human history is the context for understanding the content of human history. Jesus is coming again.
I sometimes hear pastors lamenting about how much “bad theology” swirls around Christ’s second coming. Yet, we have an annual opportunity to provide a good interpretation of it. I’ve known a few pastors who skip over this theme because they don’t actually believe Jesus is coming again. But most of the failures stem largely from our tendency to run toward Bethlehem as fast as we can.
The early Christians did not do this. A spot check of readings from the first few centuries of Christianity show that our predecessors used the Advent season to think of Christ’s return. Most reflections had to do with eschatology, but some used this first Sunday to think of Christ’s return in the context of their death. One way or another, they were convinced that Jesus would come back for them.
Consequently, the abiding message is “Keep Watch!” No matter what our theology of the second coming happens to be, and no matter what our thoughts of our eventual death are, we are called to cultivate a heightened sense of “attentiveness.” We are to look for the coming of Christ.
This poise develops into perception. We develop eyes to see and ears to hear, discovering the larger truth that “Jesus comes again” everyday. Jesus returns with every dawn to guide and guard our lives. Jesus comes back daily, not only at the end of the age or at the end of our time here on earth. Advent begins each year with the exhortation to “pay attention.” Jesus is coming again—and again—and again.
Thank you! I am weary of all the “advent” devotional books that are really nothing more than extended reflections on the nativity. I am convinced the church needs to reclaim and embrace the genuine observance of Advent if it is to ever experience revival and true vitality. This season also gives the church an opportunity to be a genuine alternative to hyper-consumerism of the dominant culture from November through December.