Lk. 21: 25-28, 34-36
Thanksgiving in the States is a time of reflection, a time to give thanks for the many ways we have been blessed and supported by family, friends and especially by our creator God. Even if the year has been difficult, we give thanks for the strength and presence of God and family who have helped us and supported us. During the days after Thanksgiving as I watched the grandchildren something one of them did that day made me reflect on one of the great blessings we have been given by God. I was watching the youngest grandchild and how adamant he was about doing things without help from his parents, uncles or aunts, cousins and yes even grandparents. I was reminded of how stubborn and independent we are as a people and how early in life this desire to do things on our own shows up. One of the psalms tells us “God understands because we are just human.” God is patient with us as my grandson’s parents were with him as he exerted his independence.
Advent is much like our Thanksgiving, it helps us focus on the depth of God’s love for us and it helps us understand how much we need a savior; someone who will do for us what we could never do for ourselves. There is one line in today’s gospel which struck me as we enter this Advent season; the season where we are called to be attentive to the coming of Jesus and the reason for his coming. hat one line tells us to “pray for strength to stand before the Son of Man.”
Today marks the beginning of a new cycle of readings in the church; one where we will hear from the Gospel of Luke. But today we hear Luke recounting the words of Jesus, well into his ministry, the words of a man on his way to Calvary. He tells us the world will end and before it does there will be a time of great tribulation. Jesus is encouraging us to stand in confidence as it comes and to raise our heads for our redeemer is near. He is reminding us of our salvation, something we are unable to accomplish by ourselves and telling us to have confidence, hold our heads up and embrace the coming of Jesus.
Yet, somehow, I picture that day as one where we are not holding our heads high but one where we are seeking safety, looking around us for some place to avoid the storm raging around us. Will we stand firm in our belief or will we cower with fear and seek to survive that day by our own ingenuity. It will be too late to do anymore than to “pray that we have the strength to stand before the Son of Man.”
How many times have we heard Jesus tell us how dependent we are on him for Salvation. Yet, we have that instinct within us to do it ourselves; we do not need help because we are spiritually informed and are able to take care of our own spiritual life. We have not learned a thing from the sin of Adam have we?
I watched my great grandchildren and grandchildren stand firm and depend on themselves in those small tasks of tying their shoes, cutting their meat, and making decisions on their own in opposition to their parents’ wishes. How can we overcome this instinctive need within us to do everything for ourselves instead of relying on the gifts of God to restore us – Jesus Christ and he Holy Spirit? Salvation is a gift, it is not something we earn by our own righteousness. When the end comes will our life be one lived in a manner that is guided by the Holy Spirit leading us or will it be guided by our own spiritual design to accomplish what we believe God desires of us.
Our problem is we just do not see how our independence is an impediment keeping us from God. Saul of Tarsus believed the Christians were blasphemous and sought to arrest them. He was righteous, a Pharisee taught by the most famous of Pharisees. He knew he was right, and the Christians were an abomination to God and must pay for their deviant beliefs. Yet even the most righteous among us today knows how wrong Saul’s opinions of the Christians was and how God had to intervene by speaking to his heart.
Saul had a revelation when he stood before Jesus and hear his voice asking him “why” with all your learning do you still not see who I am and why I came. Today, Jesus stands before all of us and poses that same question – Why. We are no different from Saul as we believe we have to conform to a religious standard of our own understanding – Why do you not recognize who I am is the question Jesus asks of us.
Pray we have the strength to stand before the Son of Man with our heads raised, looking and listening for his voice to speak to us. Our faith cannot be lived our way for it must be lived according to God’s plan. We cannot do church, or faith or service or any spiritual act our way but we must do it God’s way. We have far too long failed to surrender our will to God. We have far too long served by our will instead of serving according to God’s will. We have far too long prayed according our will instead of praying as Jesus prayed from his heart.
Jesus’s words to us as we begin Advent are a warning to us to become less independent and more dependent on him. His words to us today are a reminder to strive this Advent to discover the heart of God by discovering the person of Jesus. We must become disciples like Saul became after his encounter with Jesus so that we see where we are to serve, how we are to serve and when we are to serve. We must devour God’s word in the scriptures for they are the source of discovering God’s heart, his will and his desire for us to become a people who give witness to his love. God’s will is not that hard to discover it has been revealed to us repeatedly throughout the scriptures from the beginning of creation.
Pray that you are strong enough to stand before the Son of Man this Advent and say yes Lord you have the words of eternal life and I hunger for those words to be my guide.