My brother John is a heavy sleeper and always has been. We grew up in Los Angeles in a time when it seemed like there was a major earthquake twice a year. Inevitably earthquakes occur at ungodly hours, three or four in the morning. Each time, as our family scrambled to squeeze between thresholds or under tables, someone would ask, “Where’s John?” Eventually my brother would emerge (usually after the quake had subsided), rubbing his eyes, asking, “What time is it?”
In his letter to the Romans, Paul is eager to remind his friends: “Salvation is nearer now than when we first believed” (niv). Perhaps Paul writes of a chronological time that he believes will actually arrive at any moment. But let us consider our salvation as John Wesley did: as a journey.
There was a time in our faith journeys where we were not aware of the love of God. During this time, God watched over us with prevenient grace—the grace of God that arrives before we are even conscious of it. Then comes justifying grace—it comes when we realize we believe—the moment we first open our eyes to God’s reality because of Jesus’ teachings. The rest of the journey is sanctification—or as Paul would identify it, our salvation coming “nearer.”
Once we are awake to God’s loving grace, we cannot go back to sleep. We cannot pretend that it does not exist or push the pause button while we have our good time. We cannot afford to doze off in this grace because to do so would mean living in spiritual darkness. And if we are living in this spiritually dark place, how can we possibly recognize the light when it greets us in the morning?
God of life and light, help me to be like Jesus, who clothed himself in light and lived his life out loud in praise to your holy ways. Amen.
Advent is a season for turning our minds to the coming arrival of the Christ child. Isaiah looks forward to a future day when peace will reign in Jerusalem. All nations will come to hear the wisdom of the Lord. The psalmist rejoices in going up to Jerusalem in his own day. Jerusalem is a center of peace and a place for righteous judgment among the nations. Both readings inform Jewish expectations of a bright future with the arrival of the Messiah. Paul tells the Romans that part of receiving the reality of the Messiah is self-preparation. We should put aside immoral living and put on the Lord Jesus Christ. Matthew looks forward to the future return of the Son of God, which will happen at an unexpected time.
Read Isaiah 2:1-5. How do you look to the Bible’s stories, prayer, and the Holy Spirit to help you work toward God’s kingdom?
Read Psalm 122. What does it mean for you to pray for peace?
Read Romans 13:11-14. How do you stay awake to salvation’s nearness?
Read Matthew 24:36-44. Who in your life lives as though they expect the Son of Man? What does it look like to be ready to meet Christ?
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