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Aaron Perry ~ He’s on His Way

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.

Therefore keep watch; or be alert; it can even be translated, “Stay awake!”  Be diligent and expectant.  Jesus makes it clear: Wouldn’t you keep watch if you knew a thief was coming?  Wouldn’t you persevere just a little longer?  Wouldn’t you fight sleep and slumber?  Wouldn’t you stay up, stay awake and be alert?  Of course you would!  So be ready, be alert, be awake knowing that judgment will come as well.  But notice the person of judgment: the Son of Man; Jesus himself.  You don’t know when I will come, so stay alert, stay sharp, stay awake! – Matthew 24:42-44

The wisdom of the church and direction of the Holy Spirit places Jesus’ temple discourse to be read during Advent—each Advent. (I’ve read from Matthew and I know we’re not in Year A when Matthew is read, but let’s call it devotional privilege.) There are warnings of destruction and coming judgment: perhaps a fitting warning for our culture.

Christmas can become the same thing for us. Whether it’s “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas,” it has become a sinister distraction throughout our culture. To phrase it as a non-believing neighbor and dear friend told me, “It’s all about the magic.” What was once meant to be the pointer has become the object of attention. What was once meant to draw us back to God has gotten between us and God. Our pace changes, it becomes frenetic—struggling to see people, purchase just the right gifts, see the plays, perform the parts, put on the pageants, pull in the pagans—talk about the temptations of being in church leadership, the life of our students!—Christmas can become a distraction from God.

May this whole ordeal be to us what it is to the world: a sign.  It’s not the problem; it’s evidence of the problem.  It’s not the illness; it’s only a symptom.  It’s evidence that we can do exactly what happened in Eden, what happened with the temple and its beautiful stones, what happens in the minutiae of all our lives.

Inane Christmas simply reminds us that we are constantly challenged to construct a world without God.  A Christless Christmas is evidence that we try to create a godless world.  The temple, the city of Jerusalem had become godless centers and Jesus’ words of judgment came precisely because they had lost the purpose for which they were originally called.

And the warning comes to us, as well. We can construct a world in which God is not necessary.  The things that are meant to point us to God—family, community, food, presents, love, feasting—can take the focus, instead of pointing us to God, they can take the place of God. They are things we can love too much. In that situation, Jesus’ words of judgment mean the same thing to us: To the extent that I, to the extent that you, to the extent that we have constructed a world without God, God will destroy that world. And the day of that judgment will come without our expectation.  It will come on us quickly.  It will come on us unexpected.  And the world in which God only occupies the borders, the world in which God plays no role will be destroyed.

But just like Tolkien’s wizard who never arrives late, but precisely when he means to, Jesus’ words come to us at just the right time.  They come to us before it is too late.  They come to us while we may yet be alert; while we may yet watch; while we may yet wake up! They come to us right at the start of the year. Like that annoying alarm clock that goes off at the start of the day to keep us on time, Jesus’ words come to us at the start of the year to keep us in line!  The alarm clock is only bad news if it has been set to the wrong time and we awake realizing the time of preparation is over.  But when the alarm goes off at the appropriate time, then, “Good news!”

Jesus’ words still give us time to wake up—and to wake others.  Awake from senseless slumber!  God is calling us to wake up from the story that has lulled us to sleep!  He is calling us to awake from the senseless story of consumerism—the story that says my safety is in what I own; he is calling us to awake from the senseless story of elitism—where I am the most important part of every story around me—the story of my rights, my way, my wants; he is calling us to awake from the senseless story of division that seeks isolated identity in not being another; he is calling us to awake from the senseless story of unnecessary financial gain and unholy profit as setting what matters in my life; he is calling us to awake from the senseless story of ease and comfort to a life of sacrifice and service.

The words of Jesus—carried on the breath of Jesus so long ago—are now the words of Jesus carried by the Spirit of Jesus to us today.

I was cleaning up tables during one of the final sessions of a conference I had organized at my local church. I was in the gym and my wife sat in the session. Here’s the irony: it was a marriage conference.  My wife was in session of a marriage conference, but I wanted to clean up the tables.  I wanted to get a head start. The Spirit spoke to me.  “Go back to the session.”  It wasn’t an audible voice.  It wasn’t even a strong impression, but by God’s grace, I knew the Spirit.  I initially shrugged off the guidance and said, “I will be back in just a few minutes.” But little did I know that the words were not early. They were right on time. “Go back to the session.” The Holy Spirit spoke to me: “What am I here for?”  If I was going to ignore the promptings of the Spirit, then what role did he play in my life?  Why invite the presence of God, why pray, why study Scripture if in the moment he gave guidance, I would go a different direction?  His words were not early and praise God they were not too late.

The words of Jesus—carried on the breath of Jesus so long ago—are now the words of Jesus carried by the Spirit of Jesus to us today.

Is the Spirit gently calling you to wakefulness?  Is he calling you to awake from slumber?  Is he calling you to be alert?  To watch?  Is he calling us to repent?

Let’s listen to him.

The Spirit only calls us into the world that is being remade, restored, redesigned, reconstructed, out of the world that is headed for destruction.  He is calling us out of a world that has left no room for him and into a world that will be flooded with God.