[Jesus continued,] "It will seem like all hell has broken loose -- sun, moon, stars, earth, sea, in an uproar and everyone all over the world in a panic, the wind knocked out of them by the threat of doom, the powers-that-be quaking.
"And then--then!--they'll see the Son of Man welcomed in grand style--a glorious welcome! When all this starts to happen, up on your feet. Stand stall with your heads high. Help is on the way!"
He told them a story, "Look at a fig tree. Any tree for that matter.When the leaves begin to show, one look tells you that summer is right around the corner. The same here--when you see these things happen, you know God's kingdom is about here. Don't brush this off: I'm not just saying this for some future generation, but for this one, too--these things will happen. Sky and earth will wear out; my words won't wear out.
"But be on your guard. Don't let the sharp edge of your expectation get dulled by parties and drinking and shopping. Otherwise, that Day is going to take you by complete surprise, spring on you suddenly like a trap, for it's going to come on everyone, everywhere, at once. So, whatever you do, don't go to sleep at the switch. Pray constantly that you will have the strength and wits to make it through everything that's coming and end up on your feet before the Son of Man."
1. Advent begins. We hear the warning siren about the future, near and far. We know we need to be paying attention. Advent draws us near to the need for hope in the midst of disaster. In the midst of disaster we wait to see the "Son of Man."
2. Before we get to the culmination of hope we are in constant danger of easing back on our focus and intention to pay enough attention that we won't get overwhelmed with disaster--both personal and global. This calls us to the process of prayer. Prayer beyond the personal is needed here. One of the great gifts is communal prayer that will hold one when one cannot hold oneself in prayer and prayer able to be given by one when another finds their self slipping from prayer. Since this is a story told to a group the prayer also needs to have a group component to it.
3. So we prepare for the unexpected by not being surprised at any turn life takes. We aren't surprised when the best among us disappoint and are disappointed. We aren't surprised with the worst among us comes through--gloriously. Out of not being surprised we take a step toward wisdom and find ourselves ready to stand surprised that we have come through. Not being surprised leads directly to a large surprise. Surprise!
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