Mark 13 33-37
33 Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is.
34 For the Son of man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch.
35 Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning:
36 Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping.
37 And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch.
Our first Sunday Bible reading for advent picks up on themes from previous weeks. This now is Mark’s recording of the Sermon in the Temple, and we have here too, at the conclusion of the sermon, a declaration of Christ’s coming, of the parousia, of Christ the King. One key message remains: Beware, keep alert, watch; no one knows when this moment of full revelation will be save the Father. Meanwhile, in this present world, live wholly with Jesus.
There is a tremendous sense of urgency here, perhaps especially given the compression of Mark’s Gospel, which can race by the reader. We are to be fully awake so as to be ready for Christ’s coming. Does this mean that we are literally never to sleep? Surely not. But we are called to a full consciousness of ourselves and of Christ. From a faith perspective, as Christians, we are not to fall asleep – into slovenly ways, into spiritual turpitude; our sense of Christ is not to fall asleep in us.
It is traditional to commence the Advent season with a reading concerning the last days in Jerusalem of Jesus’ ministry. There is good sense in this, of an eschatological relationship between Advent and the triumph of Christ, between the first and the second coming. We are encouraged to look toward our celebration of Jesus’ birth in the full knowledge of the redemptive opportunity he presents to us. Our saviour, who dies on the cross to be our saviour, is about to be born. We prepare our hearts and minds for our Lord’s birth this Advent.
Our reading of the Gospel of Mark is accompanied for us today with a reading from the book of Isaiah, extracted from this passage – the King James Version quoted here:
16 … thou, O Lord, art our father, our redeemer; thy name is from everlasting.
17 ¶ O Lord, why hast thou made us to err from thy ways, and hardened our heart from thy fear? Return for thy servants’ sake, the tribes of thine inheritance.
18 The people of thy holiness have possessed it but a little while: our adversaries have trodden down thy sanctuary.
19 We are thine: thou never barest rule over them; they were not called by thy name.
OH that thou wouldest rend the heavens, that thou wouldest come down, that the mountains might flow down at thy presence,
2 As when the melting fire burneth, the fire causeth the waters to boil, to make thy name known to thine adversaries, that the nations may tremble at thy presence!
3 When thou didst terrible things which we looked not for, thou camest down, the mountains flowed down at thy presence.
4 For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him.
5 Thou meetest him that rejoiceth and worketh righteousness, those that remember thee in thy ways: behold, thou art wroth; for we have sinned: in those is continuance, and we shall be saved.
6 But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.
7 And there is none that calleth upon thy name, that stirreth up himself to take hold of thee: for thou hast hid thy face from us, and hast consumed us, because of our iniquities.
8 But now, O Lord, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand.
Isaiah longed for God, and for the sight of God. It is said, perhaps confusingly, that no human in the Old Testament had seen God face-to-face, not even Moses. And there is through Isaiah both a sense of loss through sin and also of the Messiah to come to open our hearts and lives and redeem us. How exceptionally appropriate, then, to begin this season of Advent both with the promise of the Messiah to come and too of our redemption. Let us be thoroughly alive to Christ’s work in our lives. We feeel Christ living and breathing with us each and every moment, in all the good we can do. Let us always open our hearts to Jesus, even when some aspects of the world seem to wish to close our hearts. Let us always be attentive to Jesus, and to our call to God. Come, Lord Jesus. Let us watch.
Grant, almighty Father,
that when Christ comes again
we may go out to meet him,
bearing the harvest of good works
achieved by your grace.
We pray that he will receive us into the company of the saints
and call us into the kingdom of heaven.
We make our prayer through our Lord.