Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.
As we begin our Advent journey and we hear these apocalyptic words of Jesus it is a good time to take stock of our lives asking ourselves what it is that we are most fearful about in an uncertain future. Then we can remind ourselves of God’s promise that whether or not our fears are realized we belong to the living God whose Son has saved us and promises to be with us always.
With the candles we light each week in worship and at home during Advent we remember the birth of Jesus and how he has changed the world and our lives. Those lights remind us that Christ is coming again just as he came to be born on earth over two thousand years ago. May these lights also remind us that we were created for more than fear because Jesus, the Son of Man and Son of God, has promised to come to be both with us and for us at all times even in the midst of our disasters, anxieties and fears.
It is a given that His promise does not insulate us from an uncertain future, but it does assure us that we will not face that future alone. Regardless of our fears, regardless of whatever may come in the future – Jesus will be at our side, granting us courage in the face of life’s adversities and remaining with us even through death, drawing us into new life.
If we believe this is true, then what might we venture or risk, knowing that all loss and disappointment, are also opportunities to experience more deeply the healing presence of the one who came, who comes, and will come again, always for us and all the world?
As the days grow shorter and the darkness grows longer, we light Advent candles each week to remind us that we do not face the darkness alone but that, indeed, the light of the world has come, and shines even now in the darkness of our lives to lead us forth in courage with the joy of resurrection ahead of us.
I recall when my mother died after a severe stroke. She was in the hospital for over two weeks after the stroke, then in a nursing facility for two weeks. I received a call from the nursing staff telling me that she was not responding. They had also called her doctor to come. I quickly dismissed my class at the university and rushed to the nursing home. I sat close to her bed and prayed for her.
An assurance and calmness came over me and I spoke slowly in her ear, “Remember Mom, I love you, and Jesus loves you. He is with you right now, and you can turn loose of me and hold on to him.”
Her only response to my words was a tear that rolled down her cheek. When I finished my prayer the doctor walked in and checked her vital signs. She had stopped breathing and he looked at me and said, “It is over Sue, she is gone.” In that moment of fear and anxiety I felt the warmth of God’s love cover me, knowing that she was indeed in the arms of Jesus.
Jesus is saying that we need to be prepared – to know that our lives as Christians are not just measured by our attendance at church, or our assent to certain beliefs, but also by how we live our ordinary lives — eating and drinking, working and living together. We can’t lose sight of what matters most. Know that it will all end one day. May we live like that is so. And through it all, those days when we do it well, and on those days when we don’t we still hear the whisper of grace that we are still loved.
I have claimed as my own a prayer that is in our worship book which says what is in my heart. It always reminds me that Jesus is with me in the midst of dark and troubling times. I turn to this prayer in the midst of such times. Lord God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
- How do you hear Jesus’ words today? Are they meant in the cosmic sense or the individual sense or both?
- How does this ‘warning’ make a difference for how you live your life?
- Where and how have you already learned that Jesus will never leave you alone? What does that mean for you?
Sue is NLS Spiritual Director, since 2019 and is a retired Lutheran Pastor (ELCA). Active in VdC since 1995, she has served two terms on the Board of the Texas VdC Secretariat, and also on the Texas Gulf Coast VdC Board as Spiritual Director since its start-up in 2017.