Today, is the first Sunday of Advent: Christmas is fast approaching. Yet, how often have we heard, “It’s going to be a different Christmas this year”, and it most certainly will be. Restrictions mean that so much of what usually happens at this time has been put on hold.
Parties and pantos are out, as are large family gatherings and community events. It will be a much more subdued and quieter Christmas for many.
Whilst it may not be the type of Christmas we would want, these changes, however, can give us an opportunity to think more of what Christmas really means, rather than what Christmas has become.
We can peel back much of what has been built up around this season over the years. In other words, the Christmas of Commerce as opposed to the true Christmas of Christ.
And, to help us get ready for the real Christmas, we have Advent. Advent reminds us of God’s divine plan working itself out in history; a plan that is accomplished in and through His Son.
At the start of this Advent season we are again reminded of the hope that came to the World with the birth of Christ. We are reminded of the hope and light Christ still brings to us and offers our world.
And in our reading from Mark’s account of the Gospel (13:24-37) we are also directed to think of the time when Christ will return to our world and fulfil the promise he made.
When that time will be? Only God knows.
Jesus himself, speaking about the Second Coming said, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father”. (13:32)
So, what are we supposed to do in the meantime? Jesus urges us to be always in a state of readiness.
To illustrate that he tells the parable of the master of a house who goes away and leaves his servants in charge.
They are instructed to continue with their duties in his absence while the Door Keeper is to keep watch for the master’s return, which could be at any time. So, they must always be ready for their Master coming back.
What Jesus was saying, is that he is the departing master, the Lord of the House. We are the waiting Disciples, the community of believers who are to continue his work in his absence.
At this time of Advent, we are asked to consider the state of our discipleship: is it active or dormant.
Like the servants entrusted by the departing Lord to continue in the work he left them, Christ has given us the responsibility of carrying on his work on earth.
It is a call to be vigilant and dedicated: to prayerfully wait and carry on with the work with which we have been entrusted.
For all our limitations, this is a God that trusts us; and that is both a privilege and an awesome responsibility.
The challenge to us this Advent is to ask ourselves, “are we diligently and faithfully continuing in His work”?
When we look closely at ourselves and our living, do we really serve Christ as well as we are able. Or, perhaps with the passing of the years, has our enthusiasm faded.
Instead of discipleship and serving Christ and his church being a privilege, do we sometimes find ourselves looking at it as a duty or a burden?
And so, as Christ said to his disciples of the past, he speaks to us,” What I say to you, I say to everyone, ‘Watch”! (13:37). Wake up. Be alert. It is the call of Advent itself.
At this time of Advent, let Christ’s word be a wake-up call for us to get ready for his return.
At this time of Advent, as our focus is drawn again to the Christ-child born in the manger, we are given the opportunity to begin again in our discipleship; to refresh our discipleship.
Let us respond to the call of Advent. This Christmas, and at all times, let Christ find us awake and ready to greet him.
Let us pray.
Lord in Heaven, as we begin on our Advent journey, we go knowing that this year it will be as no other, but we go knowing You walk with us.
We know that even if some Christmas traditions have had to go, You are with us. While we might not be able to be close to family and share their company and meals, You are with us.
We know that even while we cannot stand shoulder to shoulder singing our favourite Carols beside each other, You are with us. Even in the midst all that we faced in times past, of all that we have to endure today, we know that You are with us. Emmanuel, God with us.
Amen, and may we look forward in hope and anticipation to the coming of our Saviour.