Luke 21:22–28, 34–36
Wait a moment! Hang on. Sorry, just be patient. How did you know I was going to say that?
Some of you are already uncomfortable. You want to just get on with it and stop wasting time.
Lots of drivers don’t like red lights. Some drivers ignore them. They can’t wait.
Jesus tells us in Luke 21 that at some time in the future, he will return. Until then, we must wait.
While he is away, Jesus has left some instructions.
Have you ever been at home alone with some tasks to do before your parents returned. At first, it is a great feeling. You can sleep in the day, eat what you like, play computer games. But the feeling when you are deeply engrossed in something and you hear the key in the door and you realise you didn’t do even one of those things you had promised to do. That feeling. That is not a great feeling.
And it’s too late. You don’t have time to wash the dishes, do the laundry, cook dinner.
Jesus tells us there will be a warning before he returns. Great, we’ll have time to get ready we think. But perhaps it will be like the warning noise of the car parking outside the house. It’s too late. You will have been caught like a rat in a trap. Jesus knows this. In verse 34 he says, “Don’t let that day catch you unaware, like a trap.”
The Bible is full of waiting. Joseph had to wait in prison until Pharaoh released him. The Hebrews had to wait in slavery until Moses came to set them free. The chosen people had to wait for the messiah. The Bible is also full of stories of people who didn’t wait well and weren’t ready when the time came. The Hebrew slaves did not want to follow Moses into the desert and out of captivity. The Jews did not want to follow Jesus out of their old ways of life and into God’s ways.
How are you waiting?
Are you waiting for Jesus like you wait for the dentist? Leafing through the magazines. Watching the other people waiting. Dozing off, sleeping while waiting. Knowing that when it is time you will be called. This kind of passive waiting doesn’t require much effort.
There is no commitment in this kind of waiting. There is no energy or activity required. It’s OK to be bored. Are we waiting for Jesus like this? Are we sitting back while God is doing all the work. With this kind of waiting there is no need to bother about prayer, worship, mission, the Bible, or with deliberately living the Christian life.
There is that strange person who feels some responsibility. This person cares about the one who will return and so washes the dishes, does the laundry and cooks the meal. Not only that, they set the table and put fresh flowers in a vase. This is active waiting. And when the car pulls up or the key slips into the lock, you feel a sense of joy.
This is waiting with anticipation and excitement. Like waiting for Christmas morning.
If you believe that Jesus will keep his word and come again, then you need to examine just how active your waiting is.
The work of the kingdom of God, the work of the Master, has been entrusted to you and me. We are his servants. He expects us to be faithful servants. There is little point in worrying and fretting over when the master will return. The most important concern we have is that we faithfully carry out the work he has given us to do so that when he does return he will find us faithfully working on those tasks he has given us.
“Watch out! Don’t let your hearts be dulled by carousing and drunkenness, and by the worries of this life. Keep alert at all times. And pray that you might be strong enough to escape these coming horrors and stand before the Son of Man.” (Luke 21:34)
Don’t fear the signs of the end. “There will be strange signs in the sun, moon, and stars. And here on earth the nations will be in turmoil, perplexed by the roaring seas and strange tides.” (Luke 21:25) For those who have waited actively they will be signs of joy and excitement.
At the time of the birth of Jesus, his mother knew he was coming for nine months and she waited actively.
It’s 146.5 kilometres from Nazareth to Jerusalem down Highway 6. By car it takes about 1 hour and 39 minutes. That’s the distance from here to Daejeon. Mary and Joseph walked. Mary was heavily pregnant when they walked. The route in those days was probably 193km (120 miles)! That’s the distance between Korea and Japan. And the roads were rough. Assuming a pregnant woman kept up normal speed, they would have travelled 20 miles a day. The whole journey would have taken a week. In good weather, and without any problems.
Where did they sleep. Where did they bathe. Where did they relieve themselves. Where did they eat? And despite what you may have been taught by nativity plays and films, there is no evidence that Mary rode on a donkey.
And when they arrived, there was nowhere to stay and no welcome. Mary’s wait for the birth of the messiah was hard work. There were signs of great joy for those who were looking, like the shepherds and the wise men. Signs of disaster for those like Herod who wanted the things of the world.
Today is the first day of Advent. Today is the start of our waiting for Christmas.
Advent is the season of the church year when we consider how well we are actively waiting for the return of Jesus. This is a good time to ask ourselves questions such as:
How seriously have I taken the fact that Jesus died and rose for me?
How well have I been actively waiting, or have I become disinterested and aloof from God and his church?
Have I been half-hearted and lukewarm about living the life that God wants for me, or have I just done what pleases me or followed the crowd?
Have I been content to say a prayer every now and then when I think of it?
How well and how often have I worshipped God, or has it become a matter of boring routine?
Have I been going about my daily activities without any reference to God or giving any thought to his presence?
Has there been a particular sin that I am letting get the better of me?
Jesus tells us how to wait. “Keep alert at all times. And pray.” If we obey this advice then when the horrors come we will be strong enough to escape. On our own we can never be strong enough. The horrors are coming, and even now they are upon us. The waiting is almost over.
There is no time to delay. The powers in the heavens will be shaken. But we must stand firm, even while everyone hates us. Now is the time to be active in our waiting. Now is the most important moment to pray and do all that Jesus instructed us to do. Tomorrow may be too late. Now is the moment to stop “carousing and drunkenness”, or those things in your life that are like them. Now is the moment to let go of “the worries of this life” and focus all you energy on the next life. Now, not after lunch.
It’s almost Christmas and Jesus will keep his promise.