Time is flexible: the same amount of time can feel long or short. Happy years fly quickly but anxious days creep by slowly. My 13 happy years so far in Arkansas seem like a single day.
This is the beginning of Advent, which has two parts because it's a time of waiting for two comings of Jesus — his second coming at the end of time and his first coming at Christmas. In Advent time is flexible. For instance, the fourth week of Advent seldom lasts a full seven days! When Christmas falls on a Monday the fourth week of Advent is just a single day.
In a similar way, the two periods of history that Advent represents are also flexible — at least from the perspective of those who are doing the waiting. The Jews had waited for the Messiah for 500 years, but when he came, they were still unprepared: Jesus wasn't anything like they expected and so even today most Jews are still waiting. Their ongoing Advent has already lasted 2,500 years and still counting.
Meanwhile, we Christians have been waiting for Jesus' second Advent at the end of time, the final victory of light over darkness. I hope that everyone will share in the salvation of that great day, including those who missed Jesus the first time around, but look at today's world: it seems to me that most people — including most Christians — are even less prepared for Jesus' second coming than they were for his first coming 2,000 years ago. I'll bet he won't be anything like we expect this time either and my fear is that most people won't recognize him this time either--at least not in time to make needed changes before it is too late.
How prepared are you? Over the next 28 days you'll spend lots of time preparing to celebrate Jesus' first coming: the cards, the gifts, the lights, the tree, the stockings, the parties, Santa, caroling, travelling, cooking and so on. How much time do you think all these preparations will take? 28 hours — an hour a day until Christmas? 56 hours? more?
Well, if that's what it takes to be ready to celebrate Jesus' first coming, which is already history, how much more do we need to spend time and effort preparing for his second coming, for which we seem so utterly unprepared, and which will have a far greater impact on our eternal destiny than our upcoming Christmas celebration.
How to prepare for Jesus' second coming in your life? Be it the end of all time when all life on earth ends, or the end of your time when your life on earth ends?
Jesus says ‘beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life...be vigilant at all times and pray that you will have the strength to escape the tribulations.” There you have it: right living and prayer, repentance and vigilance.
If you are vigilant and pray and act, not to worry: you'll be ready for the Lord when he comes. But if you don't, watch out! That day will catch you by surprise like a trap.
Bishop Anthony B. Taylor delivered this homily Nov. 28.
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