One of the great themes of the Advent Season is that of hope. The word “Advent” comes from the Latin word adventus, with means coming. This season is therefore a time of preparation for the coming of our Lord at Bethlehem. However, our Christian hope is focused on the Second Advent, or Second Coming of Christ. Jesus promised that he would return for us, and that Advent is cast as our future hope. This means that you and I are a people living between the Advents of our Lord. During the season of Advent, we celebrate the truth of both and we prepare for both.
Many people in the world are currently obsessed with the possibility that the end times are upon us. (There have been such people throughout Christian history. Read I&II Thessalonians) People in every age, since apostolic times have seen the possible fulfillment of the biblical prophecies and signs for the end times. Joining those people this year are those who have come to believe erroneous teachings about the Mayan calendar ending on December 21, 2012 (might want to check those Christmas travel plans), or that some other “internet spread” disaster awaits us all. One of the disasters foretold by some, who claim they received the information through alien channeling, is that a (nonexistent) rogue planet named Nibiru will collide with the earth this year. I think that the loss of Hostess Twinkies could be a sign of the end times.
In our text today, Jesus gives us signs of the end times and tells about the persecutions that will precede them. The signs of earthquakes, famines and wars have always been present, so it makes it difficult to use them as markers to help pick dates. Disasters of monumental proportions have occurred in our time, as well as in every time of human history. The ruins of ancient cities bear testimony to the truth of this.
Jesus also tells us of the persecution that is to come upon the Christian family. We know of the persecutions that took place during the time of the Roman Empire. We should also be aware that there are more Christians being persecuted and martyred today than in any time in Christian history. Persecutions of Christians have taken place in every age and will continue as long as the Church remains. This also makes it difficult to pick a date for the end times using persecution as a marker.
While there will certainly be signs that accompany the Second Coming of Christ, we cannot know when it will be. Jesus makes it clear that neither he, not the angels in heaven, know when this event in human history will occur (Matthew 24:36). If the Father has not let them in on it, I think it is a safe bet that there are probably no human beings who know the date. “No one knows about that day or hour…” And I think it is a safe bet that no one knows the year either. I feel very confident in my plans to watch College Football Bowl Games on New Year’s Day, 2013.
So, why are we given signs of warning that could come from the headline of tomorrow’s newspaper? I think that the point is this: it could actually happen at any moment, so we must live our lives with that sort of expectation. Jesus admonishes us to be prepared saying, “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour. (Matthew 25:13). If we are living our lives in a prepared manner, we will be busily about our respective ministries when Jesus returns.
We think of Advent as the season of preparation for the coming of Jesus. Therefore, our entire lives are spent in the season of Advent. We need to all claim the Boy Scout motto as the resolution by which we will live our lives in this Advent: Be Prepared. If we live our lives in a state of preparedness, we will accomplish so much more ministry for the Kingdom of God, than if we spend our time in idle speculation.