Gospel reading: Mark 13:33-37
33 Take heed, watch; for you do not know when the time will come.34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. 35 Watch therefore -- for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning -- 36 lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. 37 And what I say to you I say to all: Watch."
Old Testament reading: Isaiah 63:16-17,19b; 64:1-8
63:16 For you are our Father, our Redeemer
from of old is your name. 17 O LORD, why do you
make us err from your ways and harden our heart, so that we fear
you not? Return for the sake of your servants, the tribes of
your heritage. 19 We have become like those over whom you have
never ruled, like those who are not called by your name. (Isaiah
64:1 O that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence -- 2 as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil -- to make your name known to your adversaries, and that the nations might tremble at your presence! 3 When you did terrible things which we looked not for, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence. 4 From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you, who works for those who wait for him. 5 You meet him that joyfully works righteousness, those that remember you in your ways. Behold, you were angry, and we sinned; in our sins we have been a long time, and shall we be saved? 6 We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. 7 There is no one that calls upon your name, that bestirs himself to take hold of you; for you have hid your face from us, and have delivered us into the hand of our iniquities. 8 Yet, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. (Isaiah 64:1-8).
Meditation: What do you do when someone you love very
dearly and miss very much has been gone a very long time but
promises to return soon? Do you ignore their absence, or do you
anticipate their return and send them messages to let them know
how much you long to be with them again? Jesus' parable about the
long-expected return of the Master to his household brings this
Parable of the watchful servants waiting for the master's
Wealthy landowners often left their estates in the hands of their trustworthy servants and stewards. This gave them freedom to travel, trade, and expand their business ventures. They expected loyalty and hard work from their servants and rewarded them accordingly. Dutiful servants would eagerly anticipate their master's return by keeping the house and estate in good order. Jesus doesn't tell us in his parable whether the servants were ready to receive the unexpected return of their master. Were these servants excited or anxious about their master's return? The watchful servants, no doubt, looked forward to the future because they knew their master would be pleased and would reward them for their vigilance and hard work. Disaster and reprisal, however, awaited those who were unprepared because of carelessness or laziness.
Watching with hopeful expectation and vigilance for
When we expect some very important event to happen, we often wait for it with excited anticipation. The Lord Jesus expects us to watch in great anticipation for the most important event of all - his return in glory at the end of this present age! The Old Testament prophets foretold the coming of the Lord when he shall judge between the nations and decide for many peoples (Isaiah 2:5).
The Advent season reminds us that we are living in the end times.
The end times begin with the first coming of Christ (when the
Word of God became flesh and dwelt among us - John 1:14) and
it culminates in Christ's second coming on the Day of Judgment and
vindication for his people. Jesus spoke of his return in glory at
the close of the ages as an indisputable fact and predetermined
act which he will perform as the Judge and Ruler of all peoples,
nations, and individuals who ever lived on the earth.
"May your kingdom come!"
While the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ is for certain, the time of his appearance is not yet disclosed. The Lord's day of visitation and judgment will come swiftly and unexpectedly. Jesus warns his listeners to not be caught off guard when that day arrives. It will surely come in God's good time! The Lord invites us to pray for the coming of his kingdom into our present lives and future as well. Jesus taught his disciples to pray - "may your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6:10). Do you earnestly pray for the coming of God's kingdom - both now and at the end of the world?
The Lord will reward those who wait for him
The prophet Isaiah tells us that God will surely reward those who wait for his visitation: "From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you, who works for those who wait for him" (Isaiah 64:4). Our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, has entrusted us with his gifts and graces (his abundant favors and blessings). He expects us to make good use of the gifts and resources he gives us for his glory and for the benefit of helping and blessing others as well. He does not want us to use the present time we have here on earth in idleness or wasted living. He has work for us to do - loving, honoring,and serving him and loving, honoring, and serving our families, neighbors, and communities as well.
How do we watch and wait for the Lord's coming?
How does the Lord want us to be watchful and vigilant for his return? The kind of watching the Lord has in mind is not a passive "wait and see what happens" approach to life. The Lord urges us to vigilance and to active prayer that his "kingdom may come" and his "will be done on earth as it is in heaven". We are not only to watch for Christ, but to watch with Christ. The Lord wants us to have our hearts and minds fixed on him and his word. He wants us to be ready for his action and work of grace in our lives and in our world. Those who "wait" for the Lord will not be disappointed. He will surely come with his grace and saving help. Do you watch for the Lord's action in your life with expectant faith and with joyful hope?
The season of Advent is a time for rousing our minds and hearts
for the Lord's coming. As his servants we watch for his will -
continually seeking him. We watch for his word and his power -
that he may act now to save and to deliver. And we watch for his
visitation – he will surely come again! Servants of the Lord rouse
yourselves! Be vigilant, be alert, be "watchmen" for the Lord
pointing the way for his coming.
"Lord Jesus, awaken my heart and mind to receive your word and to prepare for your coming again. Free me from complacency, from the grip of sin and worldliness, and from attachments to things which pass away. May I always be eager to receive your word and be ready to meet you when you came again."
Psalm 80:2-3, 15-19
2 Stir up your might, and come to save us!
3 Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved!
15 the stock which your right hand planted.
16 They have burned it with fire, they have cut it down; may they perish at the rebuke of your countenance!
17 But let your hand be upon the man of your right hand, the son of man whom you have made strong for yourself!
18 Then we will never turn back from you; give us life, and we will call on your name!
19 Restore us, O LORD God of hosts! let your face shine, that we may be saved!
Daily Quote from the early church fathers: Christ's second and final coming, by Augustine of Hippo, 354-430 A.D.
"Who are the 'all' to whom he says this if not his elect and his
beloved, the members of his body which is the church (Colossians
1:18,24)? Therefore, he said this not only to those who then heard
him speaking, but also to those who came after them and before us,
as well as to us and to those who will come after us until his
final coming. Is that day going to encounter only those currently
living, or is anyone likely to say that these words are also
addressed to the dead, when he says: 'Watch, lest he comes
suddenly and finds you asleep' (Mark 13:35-36)? Why, then, does he
say to all what concerns only those who will then be living? For
that day will come to every single one, when the day comes for him
to leave this life, such as it is, to be judged on the last day
(John 12:48). For this reason, every Christian ought to watch lest
the coming of the Lord find him unprepared. But the last day will
find unprepared anyone whom this day will find unprepared (Matthew
25:1-13). This at least was certainly clear to the apostles. Even
if the Lord did not come in their times, while they were still
living here in the flesh, yet who would doubt that they watched
most carefully and observed what he said to all, lest coming
suddenly he might find them unprepared?" (excerpt from LETTER
199, TO HESYCHIUS 3)
from Common Bible: Revised Standard Version of the Bible,
copyright 1973, and Ignatius Edition of the Revised Standard
Version of the Bible, copyright 2006, by the Division of
Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches
of Christ in the United States of America. Used by
permission. All rights reserved. Citation references
for quotes from the writings of the early church fathers can
be found here.
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