This morning marks our annual reminder as we begin the Advent season: “Be prepared!” Every individual who has been a part of scouting knows the old adage, “Be prepared!” Preparation always kicks off the season of Advent within Christianity . . . we hear the scripture readings of the Old and New Testaments telling us to be prepared . . . be prepared for the coming of the Lord . . . be prepared for the new kingdom . . . and, be prepared because no one knows when or where any of this is going to take place. Christianity has been hearing this message for over two thousand years, and this morning we hear one more time.
Years ago there was a poster that announced: “Be a lert . . . heaven knows we need more lerts!” Despite this being a play on words, there is a whole lot of truth in this statement . . . especially for those of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus. The world needs more “lerts”.
Our scripture lesson this morning takes place later in the ministry of Jesus—just days before his arrest, trial, and crucifixion. The disciples sense that something is up, and they are beginning to worry about the future. This reading is a part of a bigger “teach fest” which Jesus is conducting with his disciples about the changes that are coming . . . about the future that they are worrying about. It is filled with all sorts of dark and scary image, especially when Jesus is talking about the end of the age.
Who among us, upon hearing such news, would not like to know when this so-called “end time” is going to come? The disciples certainly wanted to know—“Hey, Jesus . . . give us some signs so we can be ready!” And, Jesus more than willing gave them some signs . . . wars and conflicts . . . natural disasters . . . false prophets . . . false words . . . false promises . . . strife . . . poverty . . . homelessness . . . despair. Then he tells them that these “signs” will be present in any and every generation . . . so, be prepared. Be prepared because “no one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”
The bottom line is . . . no one knows. No one knows when the end will come and the new will begin . . . no one! We know the signs, but the signs have been there forever. We have heard these words over and over again, at least every year as we enter into the season of Advent . . . but, nothing has changed. It is like a continual game of the boy crying wolf and no one believing him any longer. Nothing ever changes . . . so, why bust a butt being prepared?
I think that is what has happened with those of us who follow Jesus . . . we have lost the sense of expectation and urgency in our journeys of faith. We are just cruising along, letting life happen, and not preparing for something that can happen at any moment. We are not being “lerts”. And, probably with good reason. The signs of the end have always been there . . . they don’t even phase us anymore. It is business as usual. Yet, Jesus keeps showing up every year with the same old message . . . be prepared!
I am not going to argue that the “signs” of the end are not there because they are there. If you were to take this morning’s newspaper and read it from front to back, you would probably find just about every “sign” of the end that Jesus spoke about. They are all there . . . each and every day, they are there. Big deal! But, are we ready? Are we prepared? Are we going about the work that God expects us to do?
From the very beginning, Jesus pretty much had an idea about how things were going to turn out in his ministry and life—it was not going to be a pretty ending. Yet, Jesus did not hole himself up in some cave and wait it out . . . no, he kept on doing what it was that God expected him to do . . . he kept on preaching, teaching, healing, and performing miracles. He kept trying to bring God’s kingdom to the people . . . especially those who were at the bottom of the heap. This was his way of preparing himself for the end as he knew it would be. This was his “way” of being ready . . . he was dealing with what was there. Jesus knew that there was nothing that he could do about yesterday—it was gone . . . there was nothing he could about tomorrow—it had not happened; all he could deal with was the present moment. He was taking care of God’s business . . . he was loving God completely and loving others . . . he was being a “lert” to God’s presence in the world around him and doing what he could to fulfill that promise.
So it is with us as the followers of Jesus. We are to be prepared. We are to be prepared by being a “lert” . . . alert to the presence of God around us in the world that we live in. God’s presence is all around us as we are reminded in the Book of Genesis, where we are all told that each and every one of us—all of humanity—is created in God’s image. The question becomes, how do we relate to the presence of God that is all around us? How do we respond to all the signs that the end is coming?
How do we respond to the signs of war and conflict? How do we respond to the natural disasters that shake the world and inflict so much damage upon so many? How do we respond to strife and discord? How do we respond to the poor, the hungry, the naked, and homeless? How do we respond to those who are lost, forgotten, and unwanted? How do we respond to the presence of a suffering God who desires nothing more than a relationship—an intimate relationship with each and every one of us?
We live as Jesus did.
Jesus was a “lert”. The world needs more “lerts” . . . more of us being aware of God’s presence in the world around us . . . more of us being active in relating to that presence that we encounter on a daily basis . . . more of us looking less for “signs” and embracing the work that needs to be done now in bringing God’s kingdom into reality. More of us need to be “lerts”.
As we begin the Advent season, we are reminded once again, that we are to be prepared. I do not think that Jesus was so focused on the future as he was in the present moment . . . remember, he was astute enough to realize that yesterday was gone, tomorrow was a hope, and only the present moment made a difference. It is in doing God’s will each and every opportunity that arises that is the preparation Jesus is speaking about because that is the only one in which a person can be prepared. After all, no one knows when the end is going to come . . . ask anyone before us and they will tell you . . . no one knows. All that any of us can do is to do God’s will here and now.
So, let us heed this call to preparation once again. Let us prepare ourselves for the moment. Let us embrace the present. There is no gift waiting for us at the end of the four weeks of Advent . . . the gift has been given. Let us embrace the gift, and let us begin living in preparation for what is now . . . God’s presence calling out to us to love. To love God . . . to love one another . . . to love all of God’s family. According to the signs we know, there is plenty to love right now. Amen.