Celebrant Our Lord says, "I am coming soon."
People Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
Celebrant May the Lord, when he comes, find us watching and waiting.
Advent, of course, is often thought of as the season of preparation before Christmas. And it is that - but it's also preparation for something else. The texts chosen for these four Sundays prepare us also for the second coming of Christ - the time when Christ will return to judge the earth, to gather us in to the new heaven and the new earth once all that we see now has passed away.
So the focus of Advent really must be split. We must focus not only of the coming of the Christ-child at Christmas, but also on how to prepare our hearts for that second great coming of the Messiah. That day is surely a bit more fearsome to us than Christmas day. I'm not sure we stop to think as often as we might about what it means for us to say things like, "Come, Lord Jesus."
It's this challenge of Advent that is more interesting to me this year. We often focus on the challenge of keeping a penitential season in the midst of pre-emptive holiday celebrations. And it is important for us to be reflective about this time - about whether or not we've given in to the commercialism of the season, the busy-ness of the season. We need always be careful about making time for God in the midst of the chaos of this life - especially in this season; but for some reason this year the challenge that is really calling to me is the difficulty of preparing one's heart for the unknown. What does it mean for us to prepare our hearts for the second coming of Christ? For the Kingdom of God?
Jesus tells us - and I believe him - that we will not know the day or the hour of the coming of the Kingdom of God, so we ought to be ever alert - ever watchful. I've always supposed that because it's impossible for us as humans to always be alert, Advent offers us the opportunity to really prepare our hearts for the year ahead. How will we make ourselves more ready than last year to receive Christ? How will we make these great promises of God ever more ours in the coming year?
On Sunday, we heard Jeremiah's great words, "The days are surely coming...in those days Judah shall be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety..." For this first part of Advent, one thing we can do to make our hearts more ready is to carry these promises with us. The promises of God - that there will be peace - and justice - and that we will all be gathered up into the Kingdom of God. How will you take these promises into your heart and use them to help you pray - to help you dream - to help you prepare for the coming of the Lord? How can searching for signs of these promises help to make you watchful and alert?
May the Lord, when he comes, find us watching and waiting.