The Last Days
by Sarah Phillips
"And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and upon the earth distress of nations in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on 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. Now when these things begin to take place, look up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near." Luke 21:25
Most of us don't love to wait. We want to get on with things. Tie things up neatly so we can move on to the next thing. We often forget that in some cases, the opportunity to wait is an expression of God's mercy.
You see, this Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent. It came quickly this year. I was so busy preparing for Thanksgiving, I almost forgot about Advent. Thankfully, our reliable pastor will be decked out in purple this Sunday, scripture readings and hymns ready to go.
Advent isn't really an event so much as a season set aside to wait for an event. We can choose how we want to practice Advent. We can see it as a burden, an afterthought, or a hindrance. Or we can see its greater application to all of life. We can recognize it for what it is: a reminder to stop, clear away some of the normal "stuff" of life, and remember that throughout our life here we are waiting for something big, something that needs our attention and preparation: The second coming of Christ.
Many times I've heard fellow Christians express the desire for the day to just get here already. Can't we just end the wars and suffering… the waiting… and get on with Christ's return? Many pick apart the Scriptures, looking for details, for signs, that Christ is coming soon. Groups form and debates rage about the finer details of the end times.
While I am sure God appreciates our interest in and desire for his arrival, I am not so sure we really know what we're asking for when we say we wish he would hurry up and appear.
Think about it. Are we really ready? Is the world really ready? If you had to stand before Christ tomorrow, would you be ready? I don't mean "ready" as having correctly predicted the dramatic events that would unfold during the end times. I mean would your life reflect service to him? Love of him? Submission to him?
Mine wouldn't. At least not to the extent that it should. I'd like a few days, or um decades, to straighten things out. And to the best of my humble abilities, help a few more of those living in the dark find the light.
Suddenly, waiting doesn't seem too bad. God's plan to give me and the rest of the world a little more time doused with a lot of his grace doesn't seem so frustrating.
After reading the above dramatic passage from Luke at an Advent Sunday service past, our pastor did not delve into prophecy or speculation about the last days. He backtracked a little, and instead opted to focus on the here and now. He challenged us to avoid the "drowsiness" that comes with our everyday cares and concerns. He challenged us to become disciplined people, Christians whose lives are truly transformed by Christ instead of by the seductive "spirit of the age." He held up examples of fellow Christians who came before us and conquered their own contemporary challenges.
He reminded us that we will each have our own "last day" even if our lives here do not witness the Last Day.
That's what Advent is really about… grace today for whatever may come tomorrow. It's about God's incredible patience and love for children who have much to learn and need plenty of precious time to allow for stumbling along the way. As for the final days, set aside the speculation and leave that to God's perfect timing. He'll know when we're ready.