The four weeks before Christmas Day constitute the season of Advent, which marks the beginning of the Christian year. Advent means ‘arrival’. It refers to the coming of Christ: his first coming in humility at Bethlehem, and his second coming in glory at the end of history. During this season, we remember the Old Testament prophets who looked forward to the coming of the Messiah. Also the significant figures who prepared the way for his coming: Mary, Joseph and John the Baptist.
But it is also the season in which we are reminded to prepare for his second coming. Jesus warned us, “Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come….keep watch.” (Mark 13:33) The world in which we live is facing great changes. The future is uncertain. Many of us have been unprepared for economic and political changes. To be unprepared is to court disaster. To be unprepared is to be at the mercy of events. To be unprepared is to feel defenseless. To be unprepared is to be irresponsible. Jesus warns us that life will not stay the same. There is no guarantee that the future will be smooth sailing. Change is inevitable. So Jesus warns us to be prepared for what will happen. To be forewarned is to be forearmed.
We need to beware of the fallacy of the theory of uniformity. Uniformity presupposes that whatever happens today has always happened this way, and that we can anticipate the future in the light of the processes we see in the past. On the basis of uniformity it is said that the future will mirror the way things have always been. But the Bible is premised on something other than uniformity. The sovereign God of creation and salvation intervenes to disclose himself to the world. Biblical prophecy is a call to respond to God’s self-disclosure because he has the entire future in his hands. The Bible is the Preparation Manual for the Future. It contains many warnings. We neglect them at our peril. We need to be ready for the coming of Christ in the events of the future: whether it is in the uncharted waters of the coming year, or at the end of our personal history, when the Lord comes and takes us to himself, as he surely will when he is ready for us. None of us know when that time will be.