Waiting and Watching (Advent Week 5)

[For Dec 25 – Dec 31]

This is Week 5 of the Advent Guide (provided in PDF from The Village Church in Texas). Advent is about much more than the Christmas season. Advent reveals the season of expectation and the platform of worship that we ought to be focusing on as we not only celebrate the coming of Christ, but eagerly await His second coming. For more details (or to dive into the concept of Advent) go here: http://ow.ly/8a5Ah .

For many of us, Christmas Day is one of the most important days of the year, which is obvious given the amount of preparation that often goes into it. Schedules, plans and budgets are adjusted months in advance. Family members travel in from far away. Decorations are perfectly placed. Menus are planned. Gifts are purchased, wrapped and hidden. There is intentionality, joy and anticipation – all because this day is significant, valuable and also because we believe it is a reality.

Christmas isn’t a pretend day; it’s real. We wouldn’t go through all the trouble of trimming trees and fighting crowds if we didn’t believe Christmas was, in fact, an actual day. We trust it to come on the same date every year, and out of love and expectation, we make every necessary preparation so that when December 25 becomes our reality, we’ll be ready.

We spend months preparing to celebrate and remember Christ’s first coming. How much more should we seek to be ready for the day of His second coming? That day, too, is a reality, an absolute certainty. Unlike Christmas Day, which we know to expect every 25th of December, only the Father knows the day and hour His Son will return, but He is coming. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Beloved One, will return to the earth. It has been promised.

In the fullness of time, He will split the sky and descend to destroy all wickedness, receive the worship that is rightfully His, and usher in a new age – one free of sin, suffering, disappointment and fear. On that day, the children of God will walk in full-hearted belief and unrestrained delight as we see our Beloved face to face. We will be free from the sin and the brokenness of this world. And that will be wonderful, but the real treasure is Jesus. His return marks the beginning of unbroken, unending fellowship with Him. It is a day we should believe in, think about, look to and prepare for with joy, anticipation, hope and holy fear.

The day of Jesus’ return is certain and coming, but (so far) it is not today. At this time, we find ourselves much like the Israelites long ago – a people in waiting – which begs the question: how then shall we wait, and what does it mean to be ready for that day? How should we, as the people of God, live as we look toward and long for the coming of Jesus? Peter asks and answers this very question in his second letter.

But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. 2 PETER 3:8-14 (ESV)

The two books of Peter have much to say about Jesus’ return and what life in the meantime looks like for those who believe. In both of his writings, Peter orients the perspective and hope of believers toward the promised coming of Christ. He wants them (and us) to look forward, seeing right now in light of what has been and what is to come. Notice in verses 8 and 14 how Peter addresses the believers to whom he is writing. He calls them “beloved.”

Peter writes to a group of believers facing great hardship. They are weary and eagerly longing for Jesus to come back. Peter’s heart is full of love and compassion for his readers, and he encourages them to endure according to their identity as dearly loved children of God. He speaks to them as those set free from sin – heirs of an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. Now live as agents of peace and ministers of reconciliation in this world until Jesus returns.

In love, he reminds the believers that, though the days seem long and weary in the waiting, God is not being slow in keeping His promise. He assures them of the absolute reality of the appointed, though unknown, day when the heavens will be blown apart, and Jesus will return. He tells them exactly what kinds of lives they are to live in light of this promised and coming day – lives of holiness, godliness and hopeful expectation. He tells them to be diligent as they wait, not passive and lazy. He exhorts them to flee from sin, to walk in obedience and righteousness, and to continue trusting God’s faithfulness. By doing so, they will not only be found faithful and ready in the waiting but also, somehow, hasten the day of Jesus’ return.

We are to live in the same way, but what do these lives of active waiting and diligence look like exactly? Looking at the words of Jesus will help us understand. It’s important to see that Peter’s words and exhortations mirror those of Jesus. In Matthew 24 and 25, Jesus tells His disciples a series of parables about what the days and times preceding His return will be marked by. Peter was a disciple of Jesus and heard Jesus speak about these things. They were no doubt in his mind as he wrote the words of 2 Peter, and they show us what lives of holiness, godliness and hopeful expectation look like as we wait and prepare for Jesus’ return:

  • We will live as if we believe Jesus is, in fact, returning. In the same way that we have made thoughtful, intentional preparations for Christmas because we knew and believed it was an actual day that was actually coming, we are to live lives of thoughtful, intentional preparation for the actual day that Jesus will actually return. (Matthew 24:42-44)
  • We will be faithful and wise stewards of everything that has been entrusted to us by God, understanding that all of it—whether possession, ability, talent or gifting – actually belongs to Him and exists for His glory. (Matthew 24:45-51; 25:14-30)
  • We will have hearts that have been tended and prepared for His coming by being full of faith, love, worship and overwhelming delight in Jesus. We will fight and flee from sin and do all that is needed to be found faithful to our first love. (Matthew 25:1-13)
  • We will love and care for those who are poor, weak, cast out and in need. True disciples of Jesus cannot and will not ignore the plight of the least of these. We will serve, love, give, go and pray for those in need of food, drink, clothing, friendship and comfort. (Matthew 25:31-46)
  • We will love the nations and proclaim the gospel both far and near. As the church family, we are the vessel appointed by God to herald the gospel in all the world through both word and action. (Matthew 24:14)
Peter’s exhortations are just as much for us today as they were for the believers long ago. We, too, are living in the days of God’s patient mercy. Christ will not return until the gospel of the kingdom is preached in all the world and the full number of those appointed for salvation has been brought into the family of believers. We need to be reminded, as those who are dearly loved by God, that really believing in and looking toward Jesus’ return changes the way we live. It reorients our hope and perspective. It creates a sense of urgency, sobriety and giddy anticipation – just like a child who cannot wait for Christmas morning. Let us, as the people of God, be found ready in the waiting.
As this Christmas season comes to a close, take some time to reflect upon how the reality of Jesus’ return affects the way you live. May your heart be full and your eyes bright as you hope in all things in Christ and look to His coming. Take heart, beloved. It won’t be long.
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