Friday, November 28, 2014

Be on watch! Be Alert!

It has become a tradition in the celebrating of ADVENT to focus on four key words that seem to sum up what we are preparing for in the birth of Jesus, the coming of God among us and as one of us.

Today our key word is HOPE and there are echoes of HOPE ringing around in the selected Scriptures we read out loud today.  Together they seem to be pointing us to something they call “The Day of the Lord,” and while some of the imagery around this great a marvellous day seem to be judgemental and fearful, implicit in the texts is the idea that we who call him Lord have cause for HOPE – even in the midst of terrible and frightening things.

Be on watch.  Be alert.  
For you do not know when the time will come.

Chapter 13 in Mark’s Gospel is called “A Little Apocalypse” because it concerns the coming of Christ on earth on judgement day, something that theologians call the parousia.  This word used by Mark, means “with essence” or “to become present or real.”  Christian tradition has also taken parousia to mean The Second Coming of Christ.

But in the original mother tongue of Jesus, Aramaic, there is no word for “return” or “to come again.”  But there is a word for “appearance”.  So the early Christians looked eagerly for the appearance of Christ in power and glory.  

They lived in this HOPE which is picked up as our ADVENT theme today.  At the beginning they expected his final appearance to come soon.  As time wore on, they decided they would have to be more patient.  And they told each other stories that would keep this HOPE alive.


In the story that Jesus alludes to, I am sure you could not help thinking of the stories we had over the past few weeks that also spoke of us not knowing when the final judgement would happen.

In this version of the story, the listeners would all have understood that each servant would have been given work to be done while the master was travelling abroad.  To watch, to be alert, meant doing the work to which they had been assigned:

·        the gardener was to garden,
·        the tutor was to teach the children,
·        the cook was to do the cooking,
·        the secretary was to answer letters for the master,
·        the accountant was to pay the bills,
·        the cleaners were to clean the house, and
·        the cook was to keep busy in the kitchen.

Be on watch.  Be alert.  
For you do not know when the time will come.

This was not a WATCH & WAIT order.  It did not mean to sit around anxiously waiting.  To be ready was to be busy serving their lord.  

So this story points to the way that Christ’s followers were to live.  They were to BE READY for the appearance of the holy Son of God whenever that might happen.

Remember the truth that flows from the story about the master of the house going abroad.  This story points the way for contemporary believers.

To be really ready we must be actively involved in our Lord’s work, work which has been clearly spelled out to us:

·        loving God as we go about loving one another.  
·        forgiving enemies,
·        praying for our persecutors,
·        giving without expected reward,
·        going the second mile,
·        storing up treasure not on earth
      but building spiritual capital in heaven
·        seeking not the praises of men,
·        healing the sick and releasing the prisoner,
·        welcoming the refugee,
·        rescuing the lost,
·        and housing the homeless.

This is what being ready for the appearance of the Lord means.  And only you can judge if you have become so involved in this work of ministry that you can say you are ready.

Be on watch.  Be alert.  
For you do not know when the time will come.


So, are you ready?

If you made an honest audit of your life and its priorities, would it show you as being ready for the appearance of Christ Jesus?  

“Are you ready” means today, because today is the moment of opportunity?

Remain faithful and alert, taking the opportunities as they arise, is the best kind of watching for Christ Jesus that we have.  That means being alert to those around us, be they family members who we take for granted or strangers in the supermarket

Are you ready?  Am I ready?  

The business of the master’s house is all around us.  It will be a wonderful thing to be awake and ready whenever he comes.

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