When I read through today’s readings none of the well known Advent poems or hymns immediately came to mind. What did bounce into my thoughts were these lines from a well known hymn:
“Stand up, stand up for Jesus,
ye soldiers of the cross;
Lift high His royal banner,
it must not suffer loss.
From victory unto victory
His army shall He lead,
Till every foe is vanquished,
and Christ is Lord indeed.”
Nothing sentimental about those words, unlike some of the Advent poetry one reads. I realised as I read the verse why this particular hymn struck me as appropriate. Verse 28 of that third Chapter of the Gospel according to St.Luke says:
“Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
Advent is all about looking for the signs of Christ’s return. The Old Testament reading from Jeremiah is a foreshadowing. A prophesy, that the Christ would come one day. The verses from St.Paul are a thanksgiving that the Christ did come and those verses from St.Luke express the hope that one day Christ will return. St.Luke imagined that Christ’s return would be within his generation’s lifetime but that was not to be. Christ has not yet returned but Luke’s sentiments and instructions are no less valid in the 21st century than they were in the 1st century. For what St.Luke is doing is calling ALL of us to be alert, to be aware that Christ could return at ANYTIME.
At his ascension Jesus basically instructed his followers to be alert to his return and not to be idle until that day comes as well. He told them to get out into the wider world and to evangelise its people. He charged them to take the Good News to ALL who had yet to hear it. The same instruction applies to all of us as the inheritors or descendants of those first disciples; we are called to be fully awake and fully equipped in order to:
- recognise the Christ when he does return
- and in the meantime to share our faith with others and to draw all God’s people into Christ’s church.
‘Alert and Active’ should be every Christian’s watch words but how alert and how awake actually are we?
In Advent we regularly and actively pray for Christ’s return and to return soon, even today or NOW! This is scary stuff for in doing so we are saying that we are ready to cope with and accept anything the Christ might have to say to us or ask us to do. This should really keep us awake and on our toes and to regularly repent of our sins in order to make ourselves ready and able to greet the Christ. The other bit of this preparation is that we are also charged with bringing others to Christ so that they do not miss out on his return and the salvation he offers. What this says to me, is that we should constantly be inviting others to join in sharing Christ’s good news - but do we do this enough? Probably not!
Advent and Christmas are not gentle, sentimental festivals, they are in fact a ‘call to arms’ for use of a better term. They are a radical invitation to all of us and to those who do not yet know Christ to come towards him and to prepare to meet him face to face when he comes again. As I said before both scary and exciting.
At the beginning of this New Year in the church and at the start of Advent let us all charge ourselves with telling at least one other person this coming year why we go to church and why Jesus is important to us and then to invite them to join us at church one Sunday for worship. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if this time next year we saw a lot more people in church as a result of the invitations we offer and the testimonies we have shared. You do not need to do anything dramatic or out of the ordinary in order to share your faith with another or to invite them to church all you need to do is bring it into your conversations and chats over a routine shared cuppa with a friend or family member.
Will you rise to the challenge?
I hope so and remember you have a whole twelve months to do so.
Stand up for Jesus and tell the world why you wait to meet him.