England feared invasion by Hitler’s armies. Through the summer months of 1940, fear, uncertainty, and a kind of paralysis grew among the population. Government used all means available to bolster morale, including billboard-sized posters like this one: KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON.
Jesus of Nazareth taught about the “end of the age” and about the “day of judgment.” After his Ascension, the young church felt uncertain about the timing of such events. Details in the various New Testament books do not allow us to construct a detailed chronology of future events: Only God the Father knows. We, like the early church, must wisely entrust ourselves to God’s care and our personal readiness. This is true whatever our circumstances: in prison, out of work, jet-setting, wealthy, or in the caring services—even traveling and on holiday! Yet that trust becomes more difficult when we find ourselves in crisis. We “keep awake therefore.” We keep calm and carry on with our daily dedicated, purposeful activities and relationships. We don’t allow our sacred space, our safe place of companionship with God, to be broken into and destroyed.
Jesus emphasizes watching and staying awake. We remember that in the garden of Gethsemane before Jesus’ arrest, he asked his disciples to “keep watch with me” (Matt. 26:38, niv). In times of heightened drama, opportunities for both good and evil abound. Jesus desires that we join him in his watching, identify with him and participate fully in that final act of redemption. Paul says that we know “what time it is” (Rom. 13:11), and we will be of better service to our God as we stay mindful of that.
What spiritual discipline will best promote my watchfulness— for now and for always?
Advent is a new year, new time, new life: a genuine newness wrought by God in the world. As both the pro- phetic oracle and the psalm attest, Israel hopes for justice, peace, and well-being. The biblical community knows God’s intention for these matters and trusts God’s faithful promise. Thus Advent begins in a vision of a healed alternative for the world. The New Testament readings intensify the long-standing hopes and make the promises of God immediate prospects. The intensity and present tense of New Testament faith revolve around the presence of Jesus, whose very person initiates a new beginning in the world. The church at Advent watches in order to notice where God is bringing justice, peace, and well-being.
• Read Isaiah 2:1-5. What are your experiences of freedom and un-freedom? Consider how your demands for freedom in certain areas cause others to experience un-freedom.
• Read Psalm 122. When have you gathered for worship with a diverse community? What do you perceive as the bene ts of such a gathering?
• Read Romans 13:11-14. The writer suggests that we con- sider our salvation as a journey. Where are you along the way?
• Read Matthew 24:36-44. We are to KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON. How do you manifest your “readiness” for the coming of the kingdom?
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