Mark 13: 24-end; Isaiah 64:1-9
St Barbara’s; 03.12.17
Rev Tulo Raistrick
I have a friend whom you may call an “early adopter” – in other words, any electronic device or new invention, he will be one of the first people to try it out.
When he is walking home, when he is half a mile away, his phone will automatically send a message to his house computer. The house computer will immediately set the heating in the house to the temperature he likes, turn on the lights in the hall way, and switch on the kettle. He may decide that he wants some relaxing music to listen to as he walks in so he tells his home computer via his phone to download and play his favourite album. He’s also feeling hungry, so he tells his computer to order his favourite curry from down the road to arrive 10 minutes after he gets in. Andrew often loses his keys, so he now has his door programmed so that when he is 5 yards from his house, his phone sends a signal that unlocks the door and he can walk straight in, just as the kettle has boiled, the house is lovely and warm and his favourite Bach symphony is playing.
Now obviously in Jesus’ day, they had none of those mod-cons. They didn’t have phones, let alone mobile ones, or ones that could speak to computers. So what people did, if they could afford it, was to employ people. Those people had to stay up waiting – all night if necessary. As soon as they knew that their master was almost home, they would jump into action, lighting the lamps, stoking up the fire, start cooking a meal, laying out the master’s slippers. But they had to remain alert. Otherwise, if the master returned and they were all asleep, nothing would be prepared.
It was Jesus’ way of saying: “We need to be ready”. Advent is the period of the year that helps us to get ready: ready to celebrate the extraordinary miracle of the incarnation, of “God with us”; and ready to welcome the full coming of his kingdom.
You may have a number of ways of reminding yourself of the need to get ready for Christmas. In our house we put up an advent wreath on the door, we light an advent candle that has markers that count down to Christmas Eve, we open an advent calendar each day. They are all ways of heightening our anticipation, of keeping us ready and alert for what is to come.
Most importantly of all, we need to get our hearts and minds ready: to be in a place where we can wonder at and celebrate the miracle of Jesus coming to us. It is the most amazing truth – God was born on earth to show us what He is really like and how much he loves us.
Advent is not just about getting ready for Christmas; but about getting ready for the time when Christ will bring the fullness of his kingdom to earth, when our prayer “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” is fully realised.
Imagine if you were to get a phone call telling you that in 5 minutes time the Queen was turning up at your house and that she was staying for the night. Its a total surprise, until you begin to remember all those texts, emails and letters you had received about it several months ago. It had all seemed so far away back then that you had forgotten all about it. Now it is all too real!
What would you do when she arrives? Pretend you don’t recognise her and tell her to go away? Ask her to wait on the doorstep while you finish cleaning? Come clean and say you are sorry? Whatever we do, it would be rather embarrassing.
Well, imagine, if you were told that Jesus was to come back today and wanted to see how you were living your life, what would you do first? Would you sort out any relationships where you had fallen out with others? Say sorry to people you may have wronged? Stand up for someone who needs your help? Stop worrying about things that now don’t seem to matter very much? What would you do?
Advent is a time when we are reminded that we should always ask that question: “If Jesus was to come today… or if I was to die suddenly and go to him… would I be ready?” Because when we live like that, we will want to make sure all our relationships are right; we will want to make sure that we have stood up for what’s right; we will want to make sure we have focused on those things that really matter in life, not the things that don’t. Advent is a good time to reflect on our priorities, to get ourselves ready.
Ready for Christmas, ready for Jesus, and ready to pray.
Throughout the four Sundays in Advent, we are going to be hearing Bible readings from the prophet Isaiah. The time the book of Isaiah was written, Israel was going through a difficult time. They had just returned from exile, from being slaves, in a far off foreign land. They had returned to their city Jerusalem to find their homes and God’s special temple in ruins. Imagine being the people of Syria, returning to their homes, and finding them rubble and ruin. Well, it was like that for the people of Israel. They are desperate for God to act, to help them, to show his power. And so Isaiah prays on the people’s behalf:
“Oh God, that you would tear the heavens apart and come down, that the mountains would tremble before you. Come down to make your name known. Cause the nations to tremble before you. For when you did awesome things that we did not expect, you came down and the mountains trembled before you. We know you act on behalf of those who wait for you.”
We have talked about being ready for Jesus. Well, sometimes there are times when we can want Jesus to come now; where like the people of Israel, we are desperate for God to act. It may be to:
- heal a friend or family member who is not very well
- to set right a relationship or a job situation
- to bring peace to our world
- to bring food to those who are starving
- to bring homes to those who are homeless
And Isaiah encourages us. God will respond to those who wait for him, who hold faith in him even when there is no immediate response.
We are called to pray and to wait.
May God help us to be ready for Christmas, ready for Jesus, ready to pray. Amen.