Sunday, 29th November, is the start of the Advent season. ‘Advent’ means arrival and, specifically to the arrival of Christ’s kingdom. Though our thoughts can be dominated by the arrival of Jesus the Christ child at Christmas, the real focus is on Christ’s second advent when he comes again, but this time as a King. (The technical Greek term for Christ’s second advent is ‘Parousia’ which means the arrival of a royal personage).
In my early working life I worked on large construction projects. From time to time we would receive a visit from the managing director or the chairman or some other important person from Head Office. Sometimes we would receive a visit from Sir Maurice Laing – the president of the company – a visit that felt like a visit by royalty.
The purpose of the visits varied – sometimes they were fact-finding missions, sometimes they were moral boosting visits. Whatever the reason for the visit, the approach was always the same. When we knew a visit was going to take place, great preparations were made.
We made sure that the site was in a tidy condition and that everything was in order. On the day of the visit all the staff were there – keen and eager to make a good impression and, hopefully, to receive a pat on the back! I expect that this was the experience of those who were meeting the Queen last week as she came to Birmingham to formally open the new Grand Central Shopping Centre and New Street Station.
In an earthly sense, meeting a king requires that we are prepared and ready. How much more do we need to be prepared and ready when we are waiting for the arrival of the King of Kings? I love the story about John Laing …
When he was waiting in the anteroom of the audience room in Buckingham palace – waiting to be knighted by the Queen, John Laing turned to his companion and admitted his apprehension. He wondered how they would feel when they were waiting to meet with the King of Kings when he returned as he has promised to do. Laing’s companion was also a Christian so the two of them spent a special moment anticipating the even greater event that is to come.
What does it mean to be prepared and ready though?
Well, just like a building site our lives need to be kept clear. Kept clear of debris – the besetting sin that so easily ensnares – perhaps the sin of unbelief of not really living as though this is going to happen. Perhaps we need to clear of the debris of impurity in our thought lives or in our motivations.
We need to be watchful too, for we don’t know the date and time when Jesus will come again.
Mercifully, God wants us to be prepared to meet with Him so he doesn’t leave us in the dark. If we ask him to, God will show us what debris we need to deal with in our lives. But having shown us, God expects us to be obedient to what he pinpoints. So we need to act on what God reveals to us.
Even as we celebrate that Christ’s Kingdom was inaugurated when Jesus came as a baby, it’s also a time for preparation for when Jesus comes again.
In this Advent season we look for God to continue His work of transformation within us and through us so that we are ready for Jesus’ Kingdom coming in all its fullness; when justice and mercy will be seen in all the earth.
We like to mark this season so our worship Services in Advent will have some slight changes.…
Firstly, we will light a candle on the advent wreath each week as part of our morning services.
We will also aim to give space for stillness for silent reflection within our services.
Instrumentally and musically we aim to change gear a little: there will be less ‘going on’ at the front – sometimes just one or two instruments. When we have our usual orchestra we shall, instead, be having a reduced string ensemble.
So as we come to this season of Advent may the Lord search us through. May we join together with all Christian believers as we cry ‘Come, Lord Jesus’.