“Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.”
Once again we are ready to begin a new Christian Year with the beginning of Advent on December 1. Advent is the season of 4 Sundays preceding the celebration of the birth of Jesus on December 25. Traditionally the scriptures read on each of those Sundays are about anticipation and waiting, but they are not about waiting for the birth of Jesus so much as they are about anticipating his return. Christians have had many and varied ways of interpreting what Jesus meant when he referred to coming back after his death, Resurrection and ascension. All four Gospels were written a generation or longer after the Resurrection and some scholars speculate that the reason it took so long for the events of Jesus’ life to be written down was because his followers thought his return was to be in their lifetime so therefore there was no need to record them.
When Jesus didn’t return in those first weeks, months and years after his physical presence had left the earth Christians started speculating when that would be, and some, despite multiple warnings in the scriptures not to, have predicted dates when that return would be. Myriads of those dates have come and gone. Billions of people have been born, lived their lives and died in the over 2000 years since Jesus birth, life, death and Resurrection.
Some Christians believe that Jesus has already returned, or never really left, because His Spirit resides in us all. And some belief that whether or not there is a physical return of Jesus to the earth, at our physical deaths we will see the coming of the Lord as we are received into the loving, eternal embrace of our God.
Christmas is when we celebrate God’s coming to earth in the form of Jesus, born just like you and me as a tiny helpless infant. Advent is the season of preparation and anticipation of what that event meant over 2000 years ago, and of “staying awake” in preparation for all the ways that God and Jesus will appear to us. Remember, none of us know when that “day. . . is coming.”