given on Sunday, November 28, 2010
Main idea: Each person needs to be prepared for the second coming of Jesus at a moment’s notice.
- What is “apocalyptic”/
- Do today’s Christians still believe in Jesus’ coming/
- What do we need to do to prepare Christians for Jesus’ coming”
Welcome to the Holiday Season, 2010. Are you ready for all that comes with it? Are you remembering why all the hubub? Are you sure it is worth all the planning, the cost, the time, and/or the stress? Are you ready for Christmas?
Watching the ads the past several weeks, the one that caught my attention was the Target ad, actually the series of ads. I watched as the primary character, let’s name her Ms. Perfect, prepare for the holidays in her own unique way—there was the kitchen preparation, there was the workout—you know, the one she wears the perfect red workout outfit, the heels, and runs down the aisles with the parachute resistance, and finally, the night before trying to sleep with all the different alarm clocks. Is Ms. Perfect ready for the holiday season?
Our society is certainly geared up for a holiday that started so simply, so quietly, so many miles away from our own community. In looking at today’s scripture, I am mentally shifted back to that first pre-Christmas season. The people then were waiting and waiting for the birth of a new leader. The ancient cultural belief is referred to as ‘apocalyptic’ and the arrival of a new leader was expected to be in a flurry of destruction or war-like activity.
The online Merriam Webster Dictionary provided several definitions of apocalyptic:
1 : of, relating to, or resembling an apocalypse
2 : forecasting the ultimate destiny of the world : prophetic
3 : foreboding imminent disaster or final doom : terrible
4 : wildly unrestrained : grandiose
5 : ultimately decisive : climactic <an apocalyptic battle>
Each of these definitions can shift understanding of a term that can cause us to be very uncomfortable. Today’s view of an apocalypse is extremely visual like those shown in various movies beginning with the Vietnam classic Apocalypse Now extending to today’s movies such as The Road, The Book of Eli, Daybreakers, and others—none of which I have seen. Yet the Jewish people were living in a harsh environment in which struggles over beliefs and territories were settled in violent conflict.
Add to the differences in culture, the difference in preparing for the coming of the Messiah. Isaiah’s words were clear that everybody had better be ready because a Messiah was on the way, but look at history’s timeline: 740 BC was when Isaiah became a prophet. His words seven hundred years later were still being taught the generations, but as each generation passed, do you think the faithful Jewish people were prepared for the Messiah’s arrival?
Now jump forward and consider the year before Christ was born. The Jewish people were still in that apocalyptic mind-set. A few–Mary, Joseph, Elizabeth, and those closest to them—were beginning to shift away from that horrific vision to the anticipated a birth. They were in touch with God and were coming to understand the Messiah was arriving simply as a baby born into a loving, faithful family. Were they prepared for Christ’s arrival? Their preparation was for a birth, and then the government through in a kink—a census. Were they prepared? Yes, and no.
Today, well over 2,000 years later, we have the historical records to show that Jesus of Nazareth was indeed born. We have the anecdotal records of his teachings, his travels, his work from eyewitnesses and the earliest followers. The apocalyptic mind-set still prevailed in the culture, but now a completely unexpected image had to replace an old, an ancient image. Rather than a chaotic, battle-filled image, the image shifted to one of love and compassion, quiet and peaceful, and totally out of sync with society.
Today we are so busy in our lives that discussion of an apocalypse seem unnecessary or even alien to our thinking. Yet Matthew presents us with this new vision of a second coming of Christ. Are we able to even stop and consider a second coming today? Look at verse 39 again:
The Son of Man’s Arrival will be like that: Two men will be working in the field—one will be taken, one left behind; two women will be grinding at the mill—one will be taken, one left behind.
In light of Matthew’s words, are we prepared? Maybe even more importantly do we believe that a second coming is going to happen?
In an article located from the Baylor University website, the state of our culture and our preparation for a second coming are discussed:
Because we live our lives in the social and cultural matrices constituted by the principalities and powers, we readily absorb and reflect their values and expectations, including their sinful and corrupting tendencies.
We are a product of our culture. Add to that idea our Christian beliefs. Are we ready for a second coming? Do we even believe that a second coming is inevitable?
Only you, each one of you, can consider those questions and decide how to answer. I am not sure any of us honestly understands what a second coming is. If we have no mental image of a second coming, how can we define it much less anticipate it? The question then shifts to the final issue: Are we prepared?
Advent is a season in our Christian calendar: one of preparation, one of anticipation, and one of hope. We do put energy and planning into preparing for the celebration of Christ’s birth. We go to extremes even, as we witnessed Ms. Perfect in the television ads this past month. We work hard to prepare our homes, the cookies, the meals, and the gifts so that on Christmas Day everything is ready, everything is just perfect.
Is it enough? Is it truly the preparation Matthew asks from us? He tells us:
So stay awake, alert. You have no idea what day your Master will show up. But you do know this: You know that if the homeowner had known what time of night the burglar would arrive, he would have been there with his dogs to prevent the break-in. Be vigilant just like that. You have no idea when the Son of Man is going to show up.
Now, filter that question again through Matthew’s words: Are you prepared? Regardless if you have had time to think through even the possibility of a second coming, whether in an apocalyptic style or whether in a quiet birth, you are to live life prepared for a second coming.
I have my own image of the second coming, but it is just mine. I do not think it would be appropriate for me to create my image for you. Therefore, consider what being prepared means to you. It can be Real Simple, really simple, if you pardon me for playing with words. You see, I subscribe to the magazine, Real Simple. A couple of weeks ago, up popped an email that led to a four-question quiz, “What is your holiday entertaining style?” Why not see! In the few minutes it took to check, I was identified as an “effortless entertainer.”
Now that may seem like an inappropriate descriptor in the midst of a discussion concerning the second coming. Yet, just the title seems like a way to consider being prepared for Christ’s coming. I want to be described as ‘effortlessly prepared.’ I want to live my life following God’s one commandment to love one another just like he loves me. I want to live each and every day as though I was prepared for the most extravagant galas ever planned. I suppose my vision of the second coming is completely opposite of the earliest Jewish faithful, but it is an image which appeals to me and makes sense to me.
Are you prepared? Are you ready now? I trust that each one of us is living our lives so we are always prepared. If you follow Real Simple’s descriptors, I hope you are not just a ‘scene setter,’ worried only about the latest styles and making an impression on the guests. And, I hope you are not a ‘takeout queen—or king,’ who is so busy in life just getting the daily work done, keeping the house together, and simply call for takeout when the party begins. I may be an ‘effortless entertainer,’ but I want to be prepared and then enjoy the second coming with all my fellow Christians.
Dear All-knowing God,
We may not fully understand your plans for us.
We may not know when we meet you along our journey.
We may not expect a second coming.
We ask your help to trust the scriptures.
Help us to follow your commandment.
Help us to live as your disciples have taught us.
We then will be effortlessly prepared
To rejoice and to join you for life eternal.