Waiting is not my strong point. I would rather take longer to get somewhere without needing to wait in a traffic jam even if the route with the traffic jam would get me there sooner. If I have an appointment I will ask for the first appointment of the day even if I have to wait longer to get that appointment. I would rather wait extra days than sit in a waiting room. I’ve often wondered why that is about me but I think it’s because when you’re delayed because you have to wait you don’t have control of the situation. You don’t know if the delay is actually going to be a few minutes or a lot longer.
Sometimes we ask ourselves “how long is this going to take” and our response to ourselves might be “God knows”. Whilst that might be a sort of blasphemous use of God’s name, the truth of it is that “God knows”.
As we begin the Advent season we recall more serious and persistent questions: “When will there be justice on the earth? When will wars cease? When will this pandemic be over and life get back to fully normal? When will Christ return to bring about the fullness of God’s kingdom?” “God knows!” And that’s the truth of the matter. God Knows.
We may not have the answers to these questions, but God has a plan not to let evil go on and on. That’s why God removed the Tree of Life when Adam and Eve ate from the tree of Knowledge of Good and EVIL. God now limited the life span of Evil by no allowing Adam and Eve and future generations to live forever in this lifetime.
God will do something about the world we live in and bring about true justice. The gospel promises that Jesus will return. Because of impatience some people have tried to calculate the exact day of Jesus’ return even though Jesus once said that no one knows the day nor the hour, not even himself.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses tried on several occasions to do so and obviously got them all wrong. 1878, 1881, 1914, 1918 and 1925. Why do people keep predicting his date of return and creating fear. I’m sure you’ve heard the Last Days evangelists – “Repent Now – Jesus is Coming”. They probably read today’s gospel and observed events on earth – pandemics, earthquakes, wars, tidal waves, global warming, eclipses of the sun and moon, etc. and figured they knew precisely the moment of Jesus’s arrival. Obviously every guess was wrong because we are still waiting.
Biblical description of Jesus’ return isn’t meant for people to undertake mathematical calculations or to live in fear. Instead, it speaks to our hope and what we do while we wait. Jesus may be a long time in coming, but he can be present when we mirror his life in our lives through acts of forgiving; caring for the poor and those in need; pursuing peace; and a whole range of activities that fulfil the great commandments of loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and loving our neighbour as ourselves. But it’s not just about helping others to be ready but also ourselves being vigilant in our faith. That was something else that Jesus encouraged in his disciples – to stay awake, watch and wait. Remaining strong and vigilant in our prayer life, our Scripture life, our worship life and any other ways that keep us close to and focused on God. That’s what Jesus said in our Gospel reading: Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with the worries of this life. Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man. And, most importantly, when these things begin to take place: Jesus says – stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near. This is a proud moment – stand up – raise your heads.
We hear in our Gospel reading some dire warnings for our personal and universal world with both coming to an end. And so we must be vigilant and “stand before the Son of Man” and maintain our faith and keep our focus on Christ. We don’t want to be like Peter who took his eyes of Jesus and focused on the troubles around him and began to sink – or even worse, he denied knowing Jesus when his life was threatened.
We trust that God is in charge, not only over our final days, but each and every day till the “Son of Man returns.” At that time our trust in God will be confirmed. Meanwhile we will not be defeated by evil or catastrophe since we have placed our trust in a faithful God who, as Jeremiah has described, fulfills promises.
As Jeremiah said: The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made. Luke doesn’t really emphasize the negative aspects of the world but the glory of the returning Christ that they point to. The things that Luke warns about have been going on since the beginning of creation. We are not to focus on them and live in fear or create fear in others but to use them as signposts pointing us towards Jesus Christ.
Advent is a season of hope. It is a time that reminds us that the things happening in the world are not primarily a call for us to try and fix them. Yes we pray for world peace – we pray for our climate – we pray for healing from this pandemic. But Jesus says they are primarily to focus our hope elsewhere: He says: Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near.
Wars will come and go. Our climate will continue to change; It wasn’t that long ago when we were fearing an ice age and now global warming. The pandemic will end and a new threat to our health will arrive. But Jesus reassures us “Our redemption is drawing near.”
As disciples of Christ let us remain vigilant and on guard for the coming of God’s kingdom in a world such as ours. And let us remember that no matter what happens to this world – a world that is passing away before our very eyes. That Christ’s word and his promises to his people “will not pass away.”