The Advent imperative

“There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. 26 People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. 27 At that time they will see the Son of Mancoming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

29 He told them this parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees. 30 When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near.31 Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near.

32 “Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

34 “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap.35 For it will come on all those who live on the face of the whole earth. 36 Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.” (Luke 21:25-36)

The Advent imperative, “Prepare!” can easily become very law-heavy. In part, this is to be expected. It is law. And God’s people need to hear it. What sins that plague our society and entice our people couldn’t be described by a general obsession over this life and an equally-saturating indifference toward the life to come? As a season of preparation (and repentance) it shouldn’t surprise us that Advent includes plenty of piercing law coming from our pulpits.

But while the call to prepare is law, it isn’t only law. As is the case with just about everything that God expects from us, he provides the necessary ingredients for what he expects to become a reality. Consider two examples from this text.

First, Jesus gives us signs. These signs are intended to constantly remind us that he could return at any moment. According to him, those signs make his impending return as easy to keep in mind as sprouting leaves let us know that it’s spring time.

You might consider a slightly more familiar illustration. Do you think Christmas will take any of us by surprise this year? Why not? It’s not just that we know when it is or that it occurs on the same day each year. It’s because there are signs everywhere you look. Go to any store, turn on the radio, surf the Internet, or open your mailbox. Everywhere you turn, the signs are clear: Christmas is coming. The wars and rumors thereof, the famines, the persecution, and the false teachings all send a signal that is just as clear: Jesus is coming.

Second, notice how Jesus concludes this discourse on the last days. He tells his disciples to pray. “Pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man” (v. 36). A prayer that we would be ready to stand before whom? The Son of Man. A prayer commanded by whom? The Son of Man. Do you think Jesus wants us to be ready? Do you think that he wants us to be found “blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones” (1 Thessalonians 3:13, Second Lesson)? I think so. Like a parent who tells his child to ask for the expensive new bike for Christmas, it is a great comfort for the Christian when Jesus tells us what to ask him for. We know with absolute certainty that it’s a request he will grant.

As we prepare with all the urgency of the Baptist this Advent, what a blessing that we also have a share in the good news of the grace and power God provides to that very end.


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