November 26, 2022 • Life for Leaders
Scripture — Matthew 24:36-44
Jesus said to the disciples, “But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two will be 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. Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”
We cannot control the timing of Christ’s Second Advent, nor can we control the movements of the Holy Spirit. What we can control is our own behavior: our own readiness, our own desire to be a disciple, our own prayer life, our own daily practices. We can use this Advent to grow closer to Christ.
I was in college so long ago, if you can believe this, that we didn’t have streaming services. (Perhaps you were in college that long ago too.) No Spotify, no Apple Music, no YouTube. If we wanted to share music with each other, we copied it onto cassette tapes and passed it around.
It was on a cassette tape at an InterVarsity retreat when I was a freshman in college in the late 1980s that I first made the acquaintance of the music of Larry Norman. Norman’s heyday was already behind him by the time I discovered his music, but he was one of the pioneers of Christian rock music, famous in the Jesus Movement of the 1970s. His most famous song is probably “Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music,” a plea for Christian rock as a legitimate art form, but I was captivated by another of his songs, which is drawn directly from this passage: “I Wish We’d All Been Ready,” based on Matthew 24:40-41. It begins:
Life was filled with guns and war
And everyone got trampled on the floor
I wish we’d all been ready
Children died the days grew cold
A piece of bread could buy a bag of gold
I wish we’d all been ready
There’s no time to change your mind
The son has come and you’ve been left behind.
There are varied ideas among Christians about exactly what will happen when Jesus comes back. One belief, based in part on this passage as well as 1 Thessalonians 4, is that Christians will suddenly be caught up into the clouds with Jesus when he appears. This belief was the background for a popular novel from some years ago, Left Behind, and is also behind Norman’s picture of Jesus’s Second Advent. But whatever your thoughts on exactly how Jesus will return, you can hear the anguish in Norman’s lyrics (and, if you listen to the song below, his music) as he sings about a world in desperate need of Christ to set it right.
Matthew 24, like Romans 13, gets read on the First Sunday of Advent because it places us into the uncertainty of longing for Christ’s return. Soon, we hope. But how soon? We do not know. All we can do is be ready. In Norman’s song, though not everyone is taken away to be with Christ, the singer wishes everyone had been: “I wish we’d all been ready.”
We cannot control the timing of the Second Advent, nor can we control the movements of the Holy Spirit. What we can control is our own behavior: our own readiness, our own desire to be a disciple, our own prayer life, our own daily spiritual practices. We can use this Advent to grow closer to Christ. I pray that it will be so for you.
How do you need to seek Jesus this Advent?
What do you need to do to be ready?
Listen to “I Wish We’d All Been Ready.” (This version pairs Norman’s recording with old footage of his performances. Lyrics are here.) Ask Jesus what you can do to prepare your heart for his coming.
Lord, may we be ready for you. Amen.
Banner image by Greg Keelen on Unsplash.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the High Calling archive, hosted by the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Everlasting Words.
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Jennifer Woodruff Tait (PhD, Duke University) is the editor of and frequent contributor to Life for Leaders. She is also the managing editor of Christian History magazine and web editor for the Theology of Work Project, and a priest in the Episcopal Church. She has written a book of poetry, Histories of Us. Jennifer lives in Berea, Kentucky, with her husband, Edwin, and their two daughters.
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