Today is the first Sunday in the season of Advent. The green of Pentecost (or ordinary time) is finally put away, and the royal purple of Advent is brought out to herald once again the coming of the Messiah. Our church’s Advent wreath marks this time with four candles (as in the four weeks before Christmas); and we begin again the Church year by singing familiar Advent Carols like ‘Come thou long expected Jesus’. But how many of us know just what it is we Anglicans are celebrating each year with our somber songs and purple and gold colors while the world outside rejoices in Christmas glitter and ‘Jingle Bell Rock’?
I am sorry to say that most of us who keep a holy Advent every year have only a little understanding about what we are doing. Most of us know about Christmas of course, the three wise men and the baby Jesus. Everyone seems to know about Easter and Good Friday and perhaps even about the ascension of Jesus into heaven. But, what about the Season of Advent? What do we really understand about the first and second coming and how should it influence our lives? When I asked my Roman Catholic school educated son, Ethan, some years ago “What is Advent?” he answered “It’s about Christmas”. Well is Advent about Christmas, or something else?
In this morning’s readings we hear a great deal about Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives. We also hear about armor of light. We also hear about people beating their spears into plowshares and about an everlasting peace that will come at the end of the age. Perhaps the most important clue to all this is the passage from the gospel that states ‘For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man.’
So how were things in the Days of Noah? The book of Genesis tells us that evil prevailed everywhere. “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the ground, man and beast and creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD. These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation; Noah walked with God. And Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth. And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh; for the earth is filled with violence through them; behold, I will destroy them with the earth.
At the time of Noah, God came to destroy the creation which he hade made. He came at a time when no one had a clue of what was about to come on the earth. The Bible says that people were eating and drinking and marrying and living . . . and then it came, the flood, and washed them all away; all that is except Noah, his family and the animals in the ark. Jesus tells us that the end of the world, when He will come again, will be much the same as in the days of Noah. Evil will prevail, and unless God himself puts an end to it, no one will survive. And that is what Advent is about today; the second coming of Christ as the King of Glory.
So you might wonder, how does Christmas, the first coming, get mixed up with the second coming? It gets mixed up because our church year, even though we complete it in one year, is really three years long. The Christmas that we celebrate this year, as the first coming with the wise men, doesn’t really complete itself until the first Sunday in Advent, 2016. The holidays in our Lectionary sort of leap-frog each other which causes a lot of confusion. If we actually followed the church year correctly, we would only celebrate Christmas and Easter every three years.
The Second Sunday in Advent looks to the First Coming of Jesus through the line of Jesse. This is the Sunday when John the Baptist appears to “Make Straight the Pathway for our King!”
The Third Sunday in Advent jumps 30 years ahead of Christmas to ask about Jesus’ earthly ministry. John the Baptist asks “Is Jesus is the Christ or should we look for another?”
And finally the Fourth Sunday in Advent goes back in time 2,000 years and speaks as a witness to the birth of Jesus in the stable at Bethlehem.
But today is First Advent which represents Hope as in the Psalm . . . “My whole being will hope as I await God’s promise” . . . The promise being of course the Christ will come again. What we ought to remember, at least for today, is that Christ will come again. He will stand on the Mount of Olives outside Jerusalem and the mount will be split in two with a cataclysmic earthquake. Living water will gush forth out of the mount and flow down into the neighboring waterways purifying them which in turn will purify the water of the entire earth. An entirely new city will be built in Jerusalem that will be brought down from heaven. Jerusalem will become the capital of a new government and Jesus himself will be the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. All nations will go to Jerusalem for instruction and enlightenment. And His Kingdom will rule earth with justice and equity. And the world will for once live in peace.
But before this happens, the nations of the world will come together to fight against Jesus as he comes from the sky. This will be the time of the anti-Christ who will deceive all the nations into believing that he alone is God and that Jesus and his angels are the real threat to the world’s peace and security. The anti-Christ will make true Christianity illegal and will set up a false Church using the same structure that now exists to make his will for mankind known. Evil will prevail for seven years. And then the end will come.
As much I hate to admit it, very few of us today are prepared for the events of the second coming of Jesus. Although we pray for it often in church, and recite the readings about it year after year, I am not at all sure we as a people are ready for this extraordinary event predicted by all the prophets and by Jesus himself in today’s gospel reading.
The season of Advent on which we embark today, is a time of preparation and looking forward to the coming of Christ our King to reign on earth. Although we say all the nice prayers and sing all the advent songs, most of us have no idea what actually awaits us at the second coming of Christ and the cataclysmic changes that will occur when this event unfolds.
Paul writes to the Church at Rome in today’s epistle to put on the armor of light so that we might be protected from the darkness of evil. The armor of light is the understanding of God in the light of the Gospel message. Those who know the message and understand the meaning will be well prepared for the time at the end. Those who do not, may be lost to the darkness as evil encompasses the earth and destroys everything in its path.
As we begin the Advent Season, let us use this time to prepare ourselves for the coming of Jesus into our hearts as King so that when he actually appears on the Mount of Olives we will know exactly what to do. Amen