Second Sunday in Advent
The Gospel. St. Luke 21. 25.
At that time: Jesus said unto his disciples : And there shall be signs in the sun and in the moon, and in the stars ; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity ; the sea and the waves roaring ; men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth : for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads : for your redemption draweth nigh. And he spake to them a parable : Behold the fig tree, and all the trees ; when they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand. So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand. Verily I say unto you : This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away : but my words shall not pass away.
For the last two weeks I’ve talked about how we must prepare ourselves for the coming of Our Lord at Christmas; and I’ve tried to give some examples of just how we may do that. Now I like to think that I recognize a good idea when I see one; especially when I come up with it. So I want to expound, if I may, upon that theme. Fortunately, St. Luke has provided just the right opportunity for this.
Did anyone catch the irony in today’s Gospel? Jesus is talking about his Second Coming; which might be considered odd since during Advent, we’re looking forward to the celebration of his first coming. But this Gospel passage again emphasizes the preparatory spirit of the season.
We spend so much time and effort preparing for “things” in the course of our lives. We prepare for weddings and birthday parties. We prepare for our future with savings accounts and retirement plans. We prepare for business trips and vacations.
Recently, when I went on a fishing trip with my family, I made sure that I had clothing that would be adequate for any kind of weather. I checked my fishing tackle to make sure I had the right equipment. Along with my parents and siblings, we all made sure to bring enough food; because we sure didn’t plan on actually catching any fish. We prepared in great detail for our trip; and we set out confident in the knowledge that we have done everything we could to ensure the success of our vacation.
I’m betting that each one of you has done some similar sort of preparation; investing money and keeping track of those investments so that you can have a comfortable retirement; planning a trip out on a map and making hotel reservations in advance; even if it’s something as simple as making sure that you’ve got the coffee maker programmed to start on time so that its ready first thing in the morning; we all like to make sure that we’re prepared.
So why is it that we don’t exert the same sort of effort preparing for the coming of Our Lord? We know for a fact that he will come again; He’s told us as much on any number of occasions in the Gospels. We state our belief in this during the Nicene Creed; And he shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead. So, since we know that he’s coming, why wouldn’t we want to prepare for that day?
We may be tempted to use the excuse that we don’t know when he’s coming; after all, Jesus himself told us that even he didn’t know the hour or day when he would return. But, to me at least, this should give our need to be prepared a greater sense of urgency. More to the point, the fact that we don’t know should cause us to want to be as prepared as possible; right now, every day, every moment.
Think about it this way; why do we buy insurance? Do we know when we will get sick, or be in an accident, or when we will die? Of course we don’t. We buy insurance just in case one of those things happens. We may never realize the full benefits of our insurance policies during our lifetime, but we know the value of having them just the same.
So, again, why wouldn’t we prepare for the coming of Our Lord? Why wouldn’t we want to start building an insurance policy for that day? Even if we believe that we won’t realize the benefits of preparing for his coming during our lifetime here on earth, what about our life after we’ve left this earth?
How is it that we can devote so much effort to preparing for things in this life, and so little to things in the next life? How can we prepare to leave an inheritance for our children and loved ones on this earth, and not prepare them for the coming of Christ? How can we worry about party preparations, trying to look good for friends and family, and not be concerned about how they will look to God on that final day?
ARE we prepared? Are we prepared when someone asks us about Scripture or do we find some way to change the subject? Are we prepared when someone asks us about who Jesus Christ is, or do we mumble some response in order to avoid embarrassing ourselves? Are we prepared when someone asks us what an Anglican Catholic is, or do we just say “we’re the old Episcopal Church”? Are we prepared for that day when God touches us on the shoulder and says, “it’s time”?
A number of years ago, there was a commercial that showed a woman bathing one child while two others are jumping on the bed in the background. Her hair is a mess, she’s wearing old clothes and the house is obviously in disarray. In the middle of this chaos, her realtor calls and says that he has a prospective buyer for the woman’s house, and that they will be there in five minutes.
That’s what the coming of Christ will be like. He will come to us when we least imagine it with his expectations; the expectation that we will have our house in order. Will we be like that women in the commercial, saying, “No! Wait”! Or will we be ready to say, “welcome Lord”!
It would appear that I’ve given you all kinds of questions and so once again, I need to likewise offer some ideas on how to be prepared. I submit to you that all the answers have been summed up very succinctly in todays Gospel; “store up for yourself riches in Heaven”. Or as may be said from a more secular view point; build your insurance policy. Much as some insurance companies will allow you to build a policy that meets your physical needs, so to can you build a program that meets your spiritual needs. And here are some of the choices that we can make in building that program.
First; Know Jesus Christ. St. Peter said it best, “thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God” (Matthew 16:16). Scripture will tell you that Jesus is the Christ. The Church will help you explain why he is the Christ. Our responsibility is to take that information into our hearts and minds, to consider it in our prayers, and to invite Jesus to play an active role in our lives, so that we may know him better.
Second, read Scripture; more to the point, prepare yourselves to know Scripture; to answer questions about it; and to use Scripture to defend your faith. We heard this in the Collect for the Mass today; “Blessed Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them; that, by patience, and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life…”.
Third, learn about the Church. Archbishop Haverland has written an excellent book on Anglican Catholic Faith and Practice. If you do not already own one, I commend it to you and urge you to read it thoroughly. If you do own one, read it again, so that the basics of our Faith and history as a Church are always fresh in your mind. Get to the point where you know with all confidence what the Anglican Catholic Church is, and about its true identity; how we are a part of the historic, traditional, Catholic faith; we are NOT merely “former Episcopalians”.
Fourth; clean your spiritual house. Clear out the chaos. Repent for your sins. Ask for God’s forgiveness. Ask your family, your friends, your neighbors to forgive you for any transgression that you may have committed, no matter how great or small.
Just as importantly, forgive others for whatever offense they may have committed against you. Commit yourself to making a new life free of pettiness, jealousy, pride; and vow to turn away from those sins. Make your house ready for that day when you are called and given that “five minute warning”.
Finally, teach. Teach your children about God, about Jesus Christ, about the Church. Likewise, teach your friends and neighbors. Teach them when you talk with them. Teach them by your example. Teach them in everything you say, everything you do, by how you live. Teach them that Jesus Christ will come again. Teach them about the necessity to store up riches in Heaven; teach them that there is more than one kind of insurance policy.
Teach them that what we are doing here on earth is building that insurance policy, that program, that foundation, that we will pass on from generation to generation; until that day when Christ comes again to judge mankind. Teach all who will listen about the benefits of preparing for that day when…
THEY shall see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.