“Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.” Luke 21:34-36 (NRSV)
These words from Luke sound really ominous! They are a warning to those of us who follow Christ, but what do they really mean? The scripture for this coming Sunday, December 2, 2012 is from Luke 21:25-36, and it is full of apocalyptic (end of times) warnings. Are we supposed to be prepared because the end of the world is imminent? Should we start packing away non-perishable foods and other provisions because we are in for some kind of war?
If we look carefully at the scriptures, and particularly apocalyptic writings, we find the warnings throughout time, across the centuries. Every era has gone through times when people were sure it was the end of the world because the biblical warnings and signs of the end times were evident. Yet, Jesus did not return in spite of the signs. So what are we to think?
While I’m not disputing that the end of times could happen, I also think we can learn something to apply to our lives today – right now – in the present. If it is true that the signs have been around century after century, decade after decade, then we have a pretty clear idea that those of us who follow Jesus have work to do. Wars and conflicts are not going to disappear, so the signs will continue.
There are ways we can live actively as the “Jesus followers” in this world. We have so many ways where we can make a difference in someone else’s life by treating them with respect and honor who they are. We can choose kind words and a pat on the back even when we would like to say something in retaliation. We can support someone going through a hard time, donate to food pantries, give our used clothing to those who have nothing, drive a neighbor without a car to a doctor’s appointment, offer to rake or shovel for an elderly person, take someone who doesn’t drive to the grocery store with us, invite a single person who is alone to supper or holiday gatherings, give an unexpected gift to someone with whom we work, send a card to someone who is ill, lonely, or has lost a loved one. There are any number of acts of kindness we can share with others that can make a difference to them.
Sometimes living prepared – or alert involves living our faith without embarrassment or worrying about offending another person who doesn’t want anything to do with Christianity. Consistency in the way we live makes a difference and might even plant seeds of wanting to learn more in the other person’s mind and heart. Of course, only God can convert someone, but we can live and act as “Jesus followers” so that others see Christ in us and want to know him better.
Sometimes its a lot easier to just become a “closet Christian” and give in to other people’s rejection of Christianity or live in the ways the world would have us live rather than in God’s ways. It’s harder to live a life of integrity, honesty, generosity, and genuineness when the world would have us be all about ourselves. It’s a difference between selfishness and self-giving for Christ. We are called to live counter-culturally, and that’s not easy.
As we approach Christmas, maybe we can start with all the opportunities we have to share the Christmas Spirit with others, even if we are not able to give so much financially, we can certainly give of our kindness and concern. Living for Jesus is challenging, and it means staying alert to seeing the presence of Christ in all things and listening for the guidance of our companion, the Holy Spirit. Let us put on the eye glasses of Christ this season and every season. Blessings, my friends!