“The Night Is Far Gone; The Day Is At Hand”
The season of Advent is like the days before a major snow storm in New England, which goes something like this. . .
“A storm is coming! A storm is coming! Quick! To the market for milk, eggs, canned vegetables, spaghetti sauce and other storm essentials. To the hardware store for snow melt, batteries, a new snow shovel, and maybe even a new snow blower. To the drug store for aspirin, toothpaste, soap, and other toiletries. And, and . . . What am I forgetting?!? A storm is coming!!
The local TV stations are going nuts too. The weather guy speculates on how much snow we might get, and whether or not the storm will be a glancing blow or a direct hit. News crews (every year, every storm) head out to the local supermarket and report on panicky shoppers and empty shelves, and to the local “Home Store” (as This Old House puts it) to document the sales of snow shovels and bags of salt. The same people flooding area stores are also watching their TV’s, and now looking to the skies for snowflakes like people in 50’s sci fi films looking to the skies for Martian invaders.
When a snow storm is expected, it is as though we’ll be trapped in our houses for weeks with six feet of snow in front of the doors, cut off from society except through TV and the internet (unless the power goes out). This is how our world ends here in New England, not with a bang but hysterical preparedness and expectations of some sort of snowpocalypse.
All this is to point out that Advent is a time of anticipation, like New Englanders anticipating a snow storm. It’s a time to get ready, a time to wake up. Momentous things are afoot, and not just snow, either.
It is a time where we Christians remember how the Old Testament saints waited for a Son of David to come as Messiah, and when we anticipate the coming of that same Messiah at the end of time to set things right. It’s not a time of hysterical preparedness, but it is a time to check and see how ready we are for Christ’s return visit to this planet ruled by sin and death. It is a time to consider how well we’re living in light of Christ’s Next Coming, of how well we’re living in light of the new heaven and new earth where Christ rules and where “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9b)
If it’s dark as night now, where most people are spiritually and fearfully sleepwalking through a world of war, disease, addiction and anger, we’re reminded that this dark night will come to an end someday, and give way to a whole new reality centered on Jesus. If we’re not fully awake, we need to be!
. . . you know what time it is, how it is already the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone; the day is near. Let us then throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us walk decently as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in illicit sex and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. (Romans 13:11-14, NRSV).
Unlike New Englanders preparing for winter storms, we Christians are preparing for something wonderful and joyful. In the beautiful words of Isaiah the prophet:
The wolf shall live with the lamb; the leopard shall lie down with the kid; the calf and the lion will feed[a] together, and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den. They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.
(Isaiah 11:6-9, NRSV)