by Andrew Consiglio - Leader and Director of Youth Fellowship
‘Shut up, I’m busy’ – words maybe said by a mother to her son, a husband to his wife, a colleague to his work mate. Even if the person being told to be quiet doesn’t take heed, the consequences aren’t likely to be disastrous.
But when these words were ignored by a certain Jack Phillips in 1912, the result was catastrophic. After having received 5 telegraphed iceberg warnings, the radio operator not only didn’t warn the bridge, but on the sixth time he telegraphed back these last words: ‘Shut up I’m busy’. Exactly 35 mins later the Titanic hit the iceberg.
Advent too starts with a warning
“Watch and Pray”. These words are found in Luke 21:25-36, the Gospel reading of the first week of Advent. When we read the history of the people of Israel, we encounter a God who is always coming to us. However there are two very important and definitive ‘comings’. The first one is the Incarnation (Jesus becomes one of us for our salvation) and the Second is the Parousia (Jesus will be coming again in glory to judge the living and the dead). Advent reminds us that the two are linked: what happens to us in the Second Coming depends on how we respond to the First Coming.
In the reading from the Gospel of Luke, Jesus is not threatening us but warning us that the world as we know it will one day pass away, and its not going to be pretty but very frightening. This may not happen in our life time but at one definitive point in history Jesus will be coming again. When the old is dismantled, the new is ushered in. Jesus promises us in His Kingdom
‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ (Rev 21:4).
But the same Scripture passage warns that not everyone will be able to live in the Presence of God in heaven (Rev 21:6-8) and to ‘stand before the son of Man’ (Lk 21:36). That is why the worst response we can give at the beginning of Advent is ‘Lord shut up I’m busy’. Now of course we wouldn’t use such words; but our choices, lifestyle and our tendency to pursue excessive pleasure and to be alienated by the ‘worries in life’ show up in our actions if not in our words. Even though we may not be alive when the actual Second Coming occurs, our death will the time of definitive judgement. So Advent invites us to a sincere repentance from sin and ‘to prepare the way of the Lord’ as we shall be hearing in the readings of the second week.
Avoid slouching in ‘spiritual pyjamas’
The only way to remain close to Jesus, to avoid slouching in ‘spiritual pyjamas’, is to keep vigilant and to pray. We need to turn away from all that makes us spiritually numb and to keep the eternal perspective in our lives in focus. As C.S. Lewis says
‘Aim at Heaven and you will get Earth thrown in. Aim at Earth and you get neither.’
And the God of surprises, who is rich in mercy and incredible love for us, will be our faithful companion on our journey. He will never let us down. We need to place all our trust and security in Him. The people in the Old Testament prayed this prayer:
‘You, O LORD, are our Father, our Redeemer from of old is your name. Why, O LORD, do you make us wander from your ways and harden our hearts so we do not revere you? Return for the sake of your servants, the tribes that are your inheritance….Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down’ (Isaiah 63:16,17 64:1).
Would they have ever dreamt that God would do just that and come to us Himself? And we know that He is the God who still comes – but who wants to be welcomed. As we guard ourselves against a life which says ‘shut up, I’m too busy’, we are encouraged to use this time of Advent to draw closer to Jesus in a deeper way than before.