I grew up loving the Cubs. Friends who wanted to poke fun at me over the past few years would post a picture of a wagon train with the caption “Pictures of the last Cubs World Series Victory Parade.” This year, however, instead of our annual Spring Training motto of “Wait ‘til next year,” we began saying, “Wait ‘til this year!” Excitement grew. Then it became obvious: if the Cubs made it to the World Series, during the last game, Jesus would return. The “signs” all pointed to that happening. And it didn’t to the surprise of Cubs fans everywhere, and we actually got to celebrate a World Series win.
We are now in the beginning stages of Advent. Many think that Advent, because it is celebrated during the time that we celebrate the birth of Jesus, is a time where we celebrate just the birth of Jesus. In truth, though, Advent celebrated the first coming of Jesus – as a baby, and the return of Jesus at the end of the world. As you walk around during this season and see all the decorations relating to the birth of Jesus, remember that if we are truly celebrating Advent, we are looking forward, with anticipation to the return of Christ. In so doing, we are reminded that we must be involved in the work that God has called us to do. Jesus talked about all the signs of his return. Forgotten by many are these words: “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14)
In all the speculation on the signs regarding the end of the world or the day of the Lord, some people spend so much time worrying about wars and rumors of wars; of the destruction and possible rebuilding of the Temple; of famines and earthquakes that they forget about focusing on God. The message of Jesus in this passage is not “hey, look for all the signs so that you can predict My coming,” although many seem to think it is. The message of Jesus is that we have a job to do in proclaiming the gospel to all people at all times in all circumstances. And the result of preaching that gospel will almost always shake up the power structure. You will be persecuted. You will be hated. It seems silly to think that we’ll be hated by others for talking about the love of Jesus, the grace of God and the forgiveness of sins – but people who are free in Christ aren’t necessarily good for leaders who seek to control people. When we face persecution, many will fall away and perhaps join the persecutors. Our job is to remain faithful preaching that revolutionary message of love, forgiveness, and grace.
As we reflect on all the teachings of Jesus, we are reminded that preaching this gospel will come at a cost. Sometimes we will have to earn the right to tell others about God’s love and grace. I know that seems crazy, but it’s true. Always we should be ministering in His name. We are called to feed the hungry and give drink to the thirsty we are called to be hospitable to the alien and the stranger; we are called to clothe the naked, heal the sick, and visit those in prison; in short we are called to meet people at the point of their physical needs so that we can share with them the true riches for their spiritual needs. Our goal, as followers of Christ, is to share the gospel in such a way that all people will look forward to His second coming. Ultimately the results are in God’s hands, of course, but we still have the responsibility to preach the gospel of the kingdom of God to all the world until the end comes.
Lord, we were reminded today that the life of every human being is precious in Your sight. Remind us of our responsibility to continue to share the gospel. Give us Your power as we share and let people come to follow You because You are working through us. And we pray with the early church, come quickly Lord Jesus.