Preparing for a Surprise!
Are you prepared for a surprise? Sounds counterintuitive! Ridiculous even! I mean, how can you be prepared for a surprise? By definition, a surprise is something you can’t be prepared for... otherwise it wouldn’t be a surprise, would it?
But that’s what Jesus seems to be telling his disciples (and us) in the scripture we’ve heard today. Jesus said, “If [a homeowner] had known at what time of night [a] thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into...” In other words... Christ is telling us, that his coming will catch many off-guard... asleep. So expect him when you would least expect him. And be ready!
Could you imagine a friend or family member calling you up, and saying they’re coming for a visit... and they’d like to say with you for a while, and they’d like to have a room, and dinner ready when they arrive... But they’re not quite sure what time they’ll be there, and they can’t tell you the day! But you’re asked to be ready.
That’s exactly what Jesus seems to be telling us... “about the day or hour no one knows... therefore, keep watch.” I can’t tell you when I’m coming, but be ready. Be prepared.
Of course, being prepared for a surprise is the main concept behind insurance, right? Home, auto... life insurance. We hope to be prepared, or covered in the event of something unforeseen. So we understand, to a degree, how to prepare for surprises in life.
But, I think Advent itself... the Advent Season... gives us a clue as to how to prepare for a surprise, too.
Because, if you think about it... as Christmas draws near, we all spend a lot of time getting ready. We know when Christmas will be, that never changes. But we never really know what it’ll bring, do we?
We know (for the most part) who’ll give us stuff... and who we’re planning to offer gifts. But every now and again, someone will surprise you! Out of the blue, our third cousin whom we’ve only met twice in our whole lives, will show up with a gift in hand... and we’re surprised by the unexpected nature of their gift.
Tammy and I’ve been known to keep a spare gift or two ready, just in case someone shows up unexpected...
God’s Word calls us to watch... to be ready... to be prepared. It’s the theme of Advent: we’re called to get things right... to ready our hearts and spirits and lives for the moment of Christ’s arrival. To prepare for that moment we know is coming... that day when Jesus will make all things right... we just don’t know exactly when it’s coming... it’ll be a surprise!
Of course, God’s surprises are most often welcomed! I have a friend who calls such moments in life, such surprises, “God sightings.” They’re moments when the grace and love and spirit of God break through in unexpected ways... as God reveals himself to us. All those times in life, that we look back on, and see God’s Spirit intervening in our lives, altering our circumstances and transforming our reality. They’re moments of grace that encourage us, and give us hope.
An answered prayer... a calmed storm... the kindness of a friend... a much needed smile, or word of comfort and assurance. A moment of peace. Any time in our lives when God “breaks through” and delivers us. All those times when Jesus reminds us of both who, and Whose, we are... those are “God sightings!”
And even though we surely don’t understand it all... I think we appreciate the idea that God intervenes in our lives... spiritually... bringing us hope and peace.
But, Isaiah was telling the people that God’s Messiah was coming to radically alter the way things were.
The Christ would change the rules! And no longer would people kill and be killed. Instead, swords would be beaten into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks. And at that moment (a moment that’s still not compete) nations will no longer rise against nations, nor will they even train for war anymore.
And as God’s People, we’re called to expect all of this to happen. The work of redemption and salvation that God began so long ago... a work that you and I participate in, and benefit from... a work that began in a lowly manger... a work that fills our hearts with hope and peace and purpose... will crescendo and ultimately culminate and climax in the unveiling of perfect peace. Both spiritual peace... which we can know NOW... and physical peace... which will only come when God’s Spirit is poured out on all flesh, as the Prophet Isaiah put it... at the coming of the Kingdom... upon the return of Christ.
So we wait... and prepare... we ready ourselves... knowing that one day God will fulfill his covenant promises... and he will literally make the crooked straight, and the rough places plain... swords will be beaten into plowshares... and war - all war - will end.
Of course, we can walk in God’s grace today... now... this moment. We can, and should, expect God to surprise us with this grace and peace and love.
Look for God’s grace. Every. Single. Day. Expect it. Pray for it. Strain the eyes of your heart towards the horizon of God’s love. For as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow, Jesus came... Jesus lived... Jesus died and rose again... to bring us eternal life. And the Good News of the gospel is... Jesus is coming again to bring us eternal peace.