Luke 21:25-28, 34-36
Jesus said to his disciples: “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, the stars, and on earth nations will be in dismay, perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand. Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise like a trap. For that day will assault everyone who lives on the face of the earth. Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.”
Today is the First Sunday of Advent, the season where the Church prepares for the coming of the Lord at Christmas. This reading, then, might take one by surprise, especially if one’s image of Jesus is the little baby in the manger, or the gentle Lamb of God, preaching peace and love. There’s not a lot of peace and love in this reading, and no gentleness whatsoever. If you’ve ever read the Narnia series by C. S. Lewis, you’ll recall the admonition that Aslan, the lion and Christ figure, is not a tame lion. This is not baby Jesus in the manger. This is the Jesus of the Second Coming, “coming in a cloud with power and great glory,” making heaven and earth, and all their inhabitants, tremble.
For those who stand outside of the Body of Christ, the Second Coming is a nightmare. Indeed, Luke tells us there will be those who die of fright at the thought of what is coming. What is the cure for a nightmare? To wake up! Wake up to the Light of Christ! What up to the promise of redemption! Wake up to the roar of the lion, calling all to repentance and redemption! Why remain in darkness, among those with hearts made drowsy by drunkenness, carousing, and anxiety? What a perfect description of so many today and of every age. Tormented by the anxieties of daily living, they seek to distract themselves in the pleasures of the flesh. Why not be freed from such anxieties by the grace of God won by Christ for the sake of our redemption?
For those alive in Christ, the Second Coming is no horror, but a cause for rejoicing. That is why the Evangelist exhorts us to stand erect, raising our heads, because our redemption is at hand. The King of Glory comes! He comes to judge, yes, but God’s judgment is mercy for those who remain vigilant and pray for the strength to endure the coming tribulations and stand before the Son of Man. I thank God that Jesus is my Judge. If any man were my judge, I would be damned to hell in a heartbeat. My only hope for salvation, for glory, for eternal life in the kingdom of God, is that Jesus is my Judge.
While Advent is a season of preparation for the celebration of Christmas, the first coming of Christ at the Nativity, it is also a reminder of our hope in the Second Coming of Christ, and of our need to be ready, to remain vigilant, to always be conscious that Christ is our hope and to not misplace that hope in things other than our Savior. Come, Lord Jesus!
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.