Advent and Christmas Reflections
The Christian season of Advent revolves around the four Sundays that lead up to Christmas Day. Traditionally, Advent is a season focused on preparation. We remember the way God prepared Israel for the birth and ministry of Jesus, and we think about how God wants us to prepare for Christ’s return.
How often do you think about the return of Jesus Christ? His second coming is one of the major themes of Scripture in both the Old and New Testaments. According to pastor and author George Sweeting, there are over 1,800 references to Christ’s return in the Old Testament, and, in the 260 chapters of the New Testament, there are more than 300 references to it. He calculates that for every prophecy in the Bible about the first coming of Christ, there are eight that speak of his second coming.
The Bible teaches that, though there will be some visible indications that Christ’s return is imminent, it will happen “suddenly like a trap” (Lk. 21:34) and unexpectedly “like a thief in the night” (1 Thess. 5:2). What Jesus emphasized in his teaching was that, rather than trying to decipher all the mysteries of the end times, we should devote our attention to being ready for his return.
How do we do that? How do we prepare for the return of Christ? In Luke 21, Jesus gives us some instructions about how to be ready.
One thing he says is that we need to guard our hearts. “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap” (Lk. 21:34). The word translated “carousing” can refer to the giddiness that come from drinking alcohol. In other words, Jesus is saying, “Guard yourself against becoming overly giddy with fun, pleasure, and entertainment.” He also warns us against being preoccupied with “the anxieties of life”. We need to make sure we are not so elated by the highs of life or so discouraged by the lows of life that we take our eyes off our Lord.
Another way Jesus tells us to prepare for his return is to lead a lifestyle of prayer. “Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man” (Lk. 21:36). As the end approaches, Jesus said, wickedness will increase and “the love of most will grow cold” (Matt. 24:12). Prayerless people, even though they call themselves believers, should not assume that their passion for the Lord will endure. For this reason, the Apostle Peter wrote, “The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray” (1 Pet. 4:7).
Jesus also told us that, to be ready for his return, we should be joyfully expectant. “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Lk. 21:28). The appearance of our Savior will be the most joyful moment that believers have ever experienced. No matter how dark the world around us may seem, and no matter how difficult our present challenges are, the advent of Jesus will take all our sorrow away. Christians who are ready for Christ’s return should be marked by a note of expectant joy.