Coming Soon! Are you ready?
By Rev. Canon David B. Tabo-oy
“And there will be strange signs in the sun, moon, and stars. And here on earth the nations will be in turmoil, perplexed by the roaring seas and strange tides. People will be terrified at what they see coming upon the earth, for the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Then everyone will see the Son of Man coming on a cloud with power and great glory. So when all these things begin to happen, stand and look up, for your salvation is near!” Luke 21:27- -, 28 NLT, , , , , , ,
Coming Soon! I’m sure such notice evokes anticipation and excitement. Such announcement is most associated with an upcoming movie or a new establishment for public enjoyment. And questions like ‘What is it? How would it affect me or my liking, my life as a whole?’ This Sunday is that season of anticipation that has been anticipated twice in a row in this column. The Season of Advent starts this Sunday.
Just to underscore the significance of Advent in our spiritual journey let us recall what this season is all about and what is intended to be done. For over a thousand years. Advent has marked the beginning of the Christian year for Western Christian tradition. Advent is a season of preparation both for the coming of Christ in flesh at Christmas and for his coming in glory at the end of time. In addition to these two comings of Christ in past and future, St Bernard and the Cisterian Fathers also speak of a present, intermediate, coming of Christ in grace to a waiting soul. Although Advent shares with Lent certain penitential characteristics, the dominant note is one of joyful expectation.
These we prepare and meditate upon in this season of Advent. Or are we preparing for yet another month-long shopping spree that some have called “economic first-degree murder” – willfully and with malice aforethought murdering our bank accounts? Are we getting ready for the depression, the anxiety, and even the rage that accompanies the secular holiday season? Instead of preparing to sing “O Holy Night” we will find ourselves living out one holy nightmare.
But the Advent we celebrate in the church – the one that has nothing at all to do with the number of shopping days left until Christmas – is altogether different. The season of Advent calls us to be ready and readiness is being in ACTIVE MODE not on STANDBY – it calls us to be ready – to be always prepared. The question is not: “Is Christ coming again?” For surely he will come again. The proper question should be “Are you ready, am I ready when he shall come again?”
While the prevailing theme of Advent is readiness it also gives an accompanying warning. Each of us lives in the shadow of the APOCALYPSE – the dark reality of the end of our time and the end of the world’s time. That is the warning of Advent. But there is also good news. There is also the promise of Advent – the promise that in the darkness, in the shadows, in the unpredictable anxiety of our unfinished lives, God is present. God is in control, and God will come again. With each candle we light, the shadows recede a bit, and the promise comes closer. With each candle we light, we are proclaiming that the light shines in the darkness and the darkness will never overcome it. The promise is that wherever there is darkness and dread or fear in our lives, wherever there is darkness and dread or fear in the world around us, God is present to help us endure. God is in charge, and hope is alive. And as long and as interminable as the night seems, morning will come – in God’s good time and God’s good way.
Christ may be closer than you know – let us be warned and be ready. This reminds me of Leo Tolstoy’s story about Martin a lonely shoemaker who is promised in a dream that Christ will come to visit his shop. The next day Martin rises early, gets his shop ready, prepares a meal and waits. The only one who showed up in the morning was an old beggar who came by and asked for rest. Martin gave him a room he had prepared for his divine guest. The only one to show up in the afternoon was an old lady with a heavy load of wood. She was hungry and asks for food. He gave her the food he had prepared for his divine guest. As evening came, a lost boy wandered by. Martin took him home, afraid all the while he would miss the Christ. That night in his prayers he asks the Lord, “Where were You? I waited all day for You.” The Lord said to Martin: “Three times I came to your friendly door, Three times my shadow was on your floor. I was a beggar with bruised feet. I was the woman you gave food to eat. I was the homeless child on the street.”
Watch out! Christ may be closer than you can imagine. God asks no man whether he will accept life. That is not the choice. You must take it. The only choice is how.
Let us pray.
Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when we shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forevermore. (Book of Common Prayer)**