|Antique Pocket Watch by Kim Carpenter on Flickr. CC BY 2.0|
But nothing sparks my impatience more than time windows: when the plumber or the cable guy tells you that they’ll arrive at your home some time between eight and four. So, I’m stuck at home, waiting, all day—each passing moment a reminder of all the important things I could be doing, but cannot.
To me, what adds to the stress of the waiting is remembering the time the tech rang the doorbell while I was washing dishes. I couldn’t hear it over the sound of running water. On another occasion, the tech went to the wrong house. Then they say that you must wait another week and go through the process again—and there’s still no cable or internet; seven more days of sponge baths.
I can’t help but hear Jesus’ warnings about his return in the same way—as an indefinite time window. Why can’t he just make an appointment, and I’ll pencil him in, set reminders on my phone, but post-its on the refrigerator? Then, I’ll be ready!
But my unreadiness for this Advent season highlights my general state of unreadiness for Christ. If I’m this bad at preparing for something that comes at the same time every year, how much less am I prepared for Christ—even if I knew the hour and the day?
That’s exactly Jesus’ point in today’s Gospel—“As it was in days of Noah,” people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, right up until the floods swept them all away. We know from Genesis that the people were consumed with wickedness, but Jesus warns us that the peoples’ lives were consumed with feasting, celebration, and the normal cares of life. That is how sin takes hold: not as a conscious decision to disobey God, but instead a slow fade into apathy towards God and God’s purposes—because there’s “more important things” to do…
At no time is this problem more abundantly clear than in December. I’ve come to think of Advent as a Season of Contradictions—as if to say, “don’t bother me with Jesus, I’ve got to get ready for Christmas.”
There is no mistaking the high sense of urgency in Jesus’ words today—especially as Jesus describes people living their lives—two persons working in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left. “Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken, and one will be left.” Here begins the apocalyptic drama of the Left Behind novels: true and faithful Christians are instantly snatched up into heaven; sinners and unbelievers remain.
But is that really the message Jesus is communicating to us? God is not going to all the trouble of taking on human flesh in Jesus Christ, then taking upon himself the sin of the world, in order to catch people of guard. All this rapture theology appears as some demented game God is playing with humankind, when it is God’s will to leave none behind. Jesus makes that crystal clear.
After all, what Jesus describes isn’t so much God leaving people behind, but instead people leaving God behind, caught up in the stresses and spectacles of life.
We can’t know the day or the hour of Christ’s return. What we do know is that “this is the day that the Lord has made.” Jesus isn’t like the cable guy or the plumber, who fixes your problem and goes on their merry way. Jesus is your Lord—and he is determined to live in daily relationship with you by faith. Yet, Jesus has a way of showing up in unexpected ways. Readiness means being disciplined in prayer, Scripture, worship, and fellowship—so that you will recognize him in all the unexpected ways he shows up: to delight you; to defend you; to deliver you.
Think of the disappearing people this way: they’re living their lives and doing what needs to be done, but their minds and souls are prepared to respond to Christ in an instant, because they are living in daily communion with him. They recognize that daily life is holy ground, and that daily life is worship. Christ can’t catch them off guard because they are connected so strongly to him.
If you’re asking, “what do I need to do to make sure I’m not left behind?”, you’re asking the wrong question. The right question is, “will I stop leaving Christ behind?”
Make no mistake about it, this is a call to discipline—but not to root out unworthy Christians from the worthy. This is discipline so that you don’t leave behind the graces Jesus brings into your life; and the opportunities to give and receive Jesus’ love. Jesus wants nothing less than for his grace and goodness to be the driving force in your life, even when you have to go to work and attend to all of life’s responsibilities.
Imagine that—every day becomes a little Christmas. Every day, Jesus acts in some way to give you comfort, to give you hope, to give you purpose. Every day, Jesus uses you in some way to reach the lost and show them how much they matter to God. This is life you can’t behind.
If Christmas is going to have any meaning or joy, ask yourself: how lost would you be without Jesus? How much does your neighbor need Jesus? How dark would the future be without him?
Then remember: this is the day that the Lord has made, for you to live through Christ. Don’t just give him a time window; open the door to him, throw away the key, and let him be Lord of everything. Christ is life you can’t leave behind.