That’s really a rhetorical question to which we all probably already know the answer. It’s God’s. Psalm 24 says:
The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world and all who live in it. (Ps. 24:1)
There’s another question that begs to be answered after that scripture reading, though—Why are we reading Jesus’ teaching about the end of the world on the first Sunday in Advent?
The short answer is because advent is a time of preparing for Jesus’ coming, and this is Jesus telling us to not just spend time remembering how he came in the past, but also in being prepared for his coming in the future.
We we might think of some things as secular and other things as sacred. But there is really no distinction between them. Everything is God’s. We just don’t always remember to see things that way.
So Jesus tells us in our reading today to be watchful. Look at what’s happening in the world around you not just as passing events, but also as signs—signs that God is at work in the world around us. Watch for Jesus’ work and look for opportunities to participate in it, to help with it.
Be watchful. Not just physically. We can’t literally keep our eyes open 24/7. This is more of a spiritual watchfulness. An invitation to look beyond the physical, to remember that there’s more going on that just what we can see. Just like the wind, we can’t see the Holy Spirit, we can’t see what the Spirit is doing in people’s hearts. Sometimes we can see the results, though.
Jesus gives us the example of Noah who trusted God and built an ark in anticipation of a great flood. There’s no way Noah could have known there would be a flood other than to listen to God, to follow God’s guidance. Noah prepared by building an ark, just as we prepare through prayer and study and doing everything we do in ways that honor God and further God’s purposes—that spread God’s love.
Be watchful. This is a call to keep our eyes open for opportunities:
· opportunities to be thankful,
· opportunities to show God’s love,
· opportunities to grow in our faith and to help others grow in theirs
· —to make disciples, to show mercy, to be God’s people in the world.
The Bible tells us to make the most of every opportunity, and to do so with hope, our theme for today. We do have hope, and we also need to be prepared to explain our hope. We don’t know how long we’ll have with the people around. Jesus could come at any time. Or they could go to meet Jesus at any time. The people in Noah’s time were caught by surprise—caught unprepared. We need to be prepared because there won’t be time to go do what we should already have been doing…preparing our hearts to meet Jesus, and helping others to also be prepared.
You may have had an English teacher who in teaching how to write told you to show instead of tell. This means to paint a picture, describe a scene, use an illustration, and to just fill the page with theorizing and postulating. In fiction, this would mean showing how a character is reacting to a situation through dialog and action, instead of through remote description. It brings the writing alive to put the reader into the scene.
In a sense, it’s the same with our faith and our hope. We can tell about it, and we need to tell, but it’s much more effective if we also show it in how we live—in how we interact with other people, in how we spend our time and money, and in what we say and do on a regular basis.
Be prepared—Be prepared to demonstrate our hope and then be prepared to explain why we have hope.
Remembering to be kind and gentle in doing so. Ultimately we have hope because of Jesus, but that takes time for someone who doesn’t know Jesus to understand. The ways of Jesus don’t always make sense to the world, because the way of Jesus is that people matter more than stuff, more than anything. The way of Jesus trusts, hopes, and loves joyfully, prayerfully and thankfully.
May this advent be a time for spending time with God and with those you love, and for sharing that love with someone new.