“Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.” — Luke 21:36
My Bible (NRSV) breaks this week’s lectionary reading into three parts, but I think the lectionary is correct in helping us recognize it as one piece. Upon first reading the passage the more difficult question is asking, why in the world are we reading this statement about the end of the world as our first reading in Advent? Jesus warns his followers about the trials and tribulations that will come upon all of the world. He offers them a word of encouragement remarking on his own triumphant return and their opportunity to rise above the chaos. Then Jesus points to a nearby fig tree and says the coming of the Son of Man will be like the changing of the seasons, marked by many signs. Jesus closes the discourse with a word of specific warning for his followers to to be ready. He says it will be easy to get lulled into a false sense of security.These are all beneficial words for Christians to hear, but can’t we just talk about the baby in the manger during this month? Advent and Christmastide are times for joyful celebration in the Church, but they are also an opportunity for preparing our hearts and souls for the coming of the Messiah. We recall that into the world of trials, tribulations, chaos, and darkness, the Light came. The signs in the stars led the magi to Jesus. A warning to the alert magi saves their lives, and another warning to the alert Joseph saved his family.
As we prepare during this special season of the year, recall that we are not simply preparing to remember the beautiful mess of the birth of the Messiah, but we are preparing to receive our Lord upon his triumphant return.