Don’t go to sleep at the switch

Advent 1c – Sunday 2nd December 2012
Luke 21: 25-36

The list of tragedy and heartache over the last 12 months is endless. War, famine, pestilence, natural disasters … the list is very apocryphal. In the last month alone there has been Super-Storm Sandy, and in this country there has been tremendous flooding, property damage and loss of life. Throughout the year Syria has been on a knife-edge of carnage and destruction, with so many lives so needlessly lost. Afghanistan lurches from hope to despair and back again every few months, and Gaza/Israel has been a terrible way for the year to draw to a close. Financial meltdown is encompassing many countries, and so many more families and individuals are living in poverty than ever before.

And Jesus said…

It will seem like all hell has broken loose — sun, moon, stars, earth, sea, in an uproar and everyone all over the world in a panic, the wind knocked out of them by the threat of doom, the powers-that-be quaking.

But having said all that, how different is 2012 from 2011? Or 2010 for that matter? Or any other year in our illustrious history? Are we any closer to the end of the world? Well, naturally we must be, but is it anything to get worked up about?

I’ve always wondered how to interpret these eschatological words of Jesus … I’ve never been good with big words, and that certainly is the biggest word I will use today. But we need to have a grasp of what Jesus was alluding to, and how that affects our faith.

Corporal Jones Dads ArmyFor me, these words are here to keep us on the edge. As Corporal Jones would say, “Don’t panic”, but there does need to be a reasonable amount of trepidation. We need to believe that there is more reason than ever to share our faith and the wonderful good news of God’s love for the world. We need to be workers and servants of the kingdom, and avoid the two extremes of eschatological hope.

We don’t need to retreat into a religious ghetto of prayer and worship awaiting the end days, and neither do we need to get the party started. I love Eugene Peterson’s interpretation of the words of Jesus:

Don’t let the sharp edge of your expectation get dulled by parties and drinking and shopping.

How appropriate are those words as Christmas approaches?!?

There is still much work to do. And we have enough on our plates without worrying about the imminent demise of the planet.

I guess every one of you reading these words could tell me about all the juggling balls you currently have in the air … and the fact that you don’t need to take your eyes off those. If that is the case, then I do believe this is good news for you. Jesus is saying keep doing the things that you are good at … talking salvation and using God’s gifts.

Don’t add any more pressure to your workload and schedule, just go about your kingdom life and let God’s love be known.

So, whatever you do, don’t go to sleep at the switch. Pray constantly that you will have the strength and wits to make it through everything that’s coming and end up on your feet before the Son of Man.

Happy days

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About Neil Chappell

Husband, father, Congregational Minister and football fan all rolled into one convenient package.
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