You MUST Be Ready…but How?
† Jesus, Son, Savior †
As our expectations build toward celebrating Christmas, may the grace and mercy of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ
reveal to us His presence in which we already dwell!
It is perhaps one of the small benefits I have as a pastor during this time of year; as people are invite each other to parties;
There is that question that lurks in the back of your mind, as you wonder how fancy the party will be?
Prior to becoming a pastor, it was hard for me to figure out how to get ready. If I wore comfortable jeans, everyone would be in suits and dresses. If I wore a suit, or even a tuxedo (does anyone do that anymore?), you know everyone would be wearing polo shirts and casual pants with sandals.
You stand there, looking in your closet, knowing you have to get ready! But…how?
My advantage now as a pastor is that I just throw on a shirt and collar – bring along a jacket… and I am all set! Well – I may have to remember to answer every time I hear the word, “Father,” like at my cousin’s party back when I was in Boston. Besides that… I do okay.
It is that feeling of not knowing what to expect, how to get ready for that which we will encounter, that is so challenging. Where are we going? Will it be fancy or simple? Formal or homey?
If we struggle with that, on this first day of Advent – the day of Hope and Expectation, what do we think of, as we hear Jesus’s words,
You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected.
How do we get ready to come into the presence of the King of Kings and Lord or Lord’s?
The Norms of Life?
Parties and work and life..
One thing is certain from this passage… we do not have a clue when it will be, when everything that God has promised is fully complete.
It could have been a day like Thursday, when people were enjoying all the family and friends and feasting that goes along with Thanksgiving. Or days like Friday, when people who work in retail establishments are overwhelmed by those who want more for which to be thankful.
Celebrations, work, life, and into the midst of it all, will come Christ! In another passage Jesus will ask,
8 …when the Son of Man returns, how many will he find on the earth who have faith?” Luke 18:8 (NLT)
It’s a hard question, for how many will follow idols, or see their life fulfilled in what they acquire and what they do or who they are with, rather than in the relationship we’ve been given with God? How many of us would consider that which defines us to be our relationship with God? And if we do, does the way we live our lives reveal that definition?
I am not saying we should not throw parties, that people should not get married, or that they should not work. It is not what we do that reveals our priorities; rather it is how we do it. Is Christ involved, is the idea of His coming a consideration in how we do things. Paul talks about it this way,
31 .. whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31 (NLT)
There is our answer, to being prepared, to know what to expect for His coming, His advent, Coming and Advent that great greek word “Parousia”. It simply means – I am around. I will be here.
That is what we need to expect – the presence of God in our lives.
Given all the distractions during this holiday season, given all the extra work, and the events with friends, how do we stay “ready?”
So how do we stay “ready”??
There was a time, and there are still people that would say we simply keep someone here at church praying, 24 hours day, 7 days a week. That they have a cell phone ready to speed dial all of us, just in case if the clouds break open and Jesus descends. One church did that back in 1981, on December 31st, there was a large crowd at a church in Orange County, whose pastor promised that Jesus would return that year. On the last day of the year – fully expecting His return, they sat there…singing songs, waiting.
Since Noah prepared and was expecting the flood without ever having experienced a rainstorm, maybe we can take a lesson from him. The letter to Hebrew Christians describes him this way,
It was by faith that Noah built a large boat to save his family from the flood. He obeyed God, who warned him about things that had never happened before. By his faith Noah condemned the rest of the world, and he received the righteousness that comes by faith. Hebrews 11:7 (NLT) 7
He was ready, because he trusted God. He heard Him. Noah expected God to keep His promise because He walked with Him.
He had such a relationship with God that Noah could hear God’s message, he knew God’s love and trusted God enough to obey and do that which they did not understand. It was not just that what God told him to do was more important than his own enjoyment, it was that his relationship with God was more important.
He heard, he obeyed because he trusted God.
Because of that trust, because of that relationship, he was ready.
Not because of the actions, but because of the God who asked him to act.
When the rains came, he was ready.
For he knew that God was with him.
There were days in the last church year, many of them, where I wanted to cry out, Come o Come Immanuel, but for the wrong reasons. To be honest, it was a tiring year! It was a year where I would have rejoiced in Christ’s coming, simply to be done with it all. To see an end to suffering, both globally, and among those I know. To see the promises of no more sorrow, no more tears occur – for that reason.
That is not the reason to want Christ to come though. The reason is the advent, of the parousia – the coming of God– of His presence, here with us, That we would fully come to understand what it means that He is our God, that we are His people.
Key – Noah heard God’s voice….
The key is hearing Him.
Hearing Him mark us as His people, as He cleanses us of sin in baptism…
Hearing Him say, Take and eat this is my body, take and drink, this is my blood. Broken and shed for you…
Hearing Him say, I am, I am your God and you are my people.
Hearing Him, knowing His presence will result in a day when He will fully reveal His presence to us, as we stand around His throne, singing His praises, as He welcomes us hom.
For hearing God’s voice, knowing His presence, that is what advent and His second coming is all about…
Knowing that we dwell in His love, His mercy, His peace. That love and mercy and peace that is beyond all understanding, as it guards our hearts and minds in Christ. AMEN!
- A New (Church) Year’s Challenge to Pastors, Priests, Liturgists, and Worship Leaders…. (justifiedandsinner.com)
Devotional Thought of the Day:
16 Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed. The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with! James 5:16 (MSG)
“In te, Domine, speravi—“In Thee, O Lord, have I hoped.” And together with human means I prayed and took my cross. And my hope was not in vain, nor will it ever be. Non confundar in aeternum—“Let me never be confounded.”
You don’t know what to say to our Lord in prayer. Nothing comes to you and yet you would like to ask his advice about many things. Look: take some notes during the day of the things you want to think about in the presence of God. And then go with those notes to pray.” (1)
In Bible Study this morning, we were looking at the 11th chapter of Hebrews, and the first fourteen verses. As we talked though Abel and Enoch, Noah and Abraham and Sarah, we saw something very inspiring.
We saw the trust they had, not in the promises, but in the God who they knew existed, and knew was with them, that they could seek Him out. More than that – since we know the stories, we had the assurance that sin didn’t separate them from God. They were given hope – not just for the moement, but the hope that comes from a life of walking with God, the hope that is assured by love, and is never in vain. The more we talked, the more the concept solidifed that though they couldn’t know all the details of what awaited them, the knew God clearly, trusted in Him, spent time with Him.
But what do we pray about? How do we have a conversation about life with the God who created the stars?
Well my first question is, “what do you need to trust God in/for/with?” Write them down as St. Josemaria suggests ( you could tweet them to Him?!) or text/fb message them to yourself for later review. Lots of technology things out there – but then, set the time apart for them. Think through them, ask God for guidance, to be the active partner that He has promised to be in your life. (Managing Partner actually) All through the day – keep reminders of what you need to discuss with God, sure the traumas and problems, but also the things you need to voice you admiration and adoration of His creativity, of His sense of beauty, of His ability to bring healing and peace.
And trust Him, deeply, even more deeply than you trust yourself.
(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 377-383). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.