Watch and Pray
Heavenly Father, as we delve into your Word today, we humbly ask for the illuminating guidance of your Holy Spirit. Open our hearts to receive the lessons you have for us during this Advent season. May our reflections be a source of growth and readiness for the glorious return of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. In his name, we pray. Amen.
29 He told them this parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees. 30 When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. 31 Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near.
32 “Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.
34 “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap. 35 For it will come on all those who live on the face of the whole earth. 36 Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.”
37 Each day Jesus was teaching at the temple, and each evening he went out to spend the night on the hill called the Mount of Olives, 38 and all the people came early in the morning to hear him at the temple.
The Great Tradition
“Watch” over your life. Do not let “your lamps” go out, and do not keep “your loins ungirded,” but “be ready,” for “you do not know the hour when our Lord is coming.” Meet together frequently in your search for what is good for your souls, since “a lifetime of faith will be of no advantage”2 to you unless you prove perfect at the very end. In the final days, multitudes of false prophets and seducers will appear. Sheep will turn into wolves, and love into hatred. With the increase of iniquity, people will hate, persecute and betray each other. Then the world deceiver will appear in the disguise of God’s Son. He will work “signs and wonders,” and the earth will fall into his hands. He will commit outrages such as have never occurred before. Then humankind will come to the fiery trial, “and many will fall away” and perish. “Those who persevere in their faith will be saved”5 by the Curse himself. Then “there will appear the signs”7 of the Truth: first the sign of stretched-out hands in heaven, then the sign of “a trumpet’s blast,” and third, the resurrection of the dead, but not all the dead. As it has been said, “The Lord will come and all his saints with him. Then the world will see the Lord coming on the clouds of the sky.” (Didache 16.1–7)
Prayer of Confession
Gracious Lord, forgive us for the times we have allowed the distractions of this world to draw us away from the richness of your Word. We confess moments of spiritual distraction and laziness and the pull of temporal pleasures. Renew within us a spirit of watchfulness and a commitment to persistent prayer. Thank you for your grace that restores and refocuses us. In Christ, we pray. Amen.
In many ways this is Part Two of yesterday’s devotion. Many texts through the Advent season encourage us… urge us… to be prepared, as we have noted several times. We hear those parabolic warnings throughout the Gospels of thieves coming in the night, virgins being unprepared with their oil when the bridegroom returns, and more.
Jesus assures us in today’s Scripture reading that though the whole universe will pass away, his words will never do so. It has been said that the only things that will last for eternity are people and the word of God. Therefore, we have confidence that what Jesus shares with us in these hard words are not only true, but lasting. Furthermore, they are shaped in the form of promises, so they will come to pass as surely as the sun will rise and set each day.
In verse 34, Jesus says, “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap.” Have you found yourself so caught up in the troubles and worries of each day that you forget to keep your eyes on Jesus? Or, perhaps you have discovered during the tough times of your life, or even those mundane seasons of life, that we can all too easily turn to distractions… distractions that numb us to life’s cold realities. Of course, the answer to our problems is Jesus, which sounds like a proper Sunday School answer, but it’s still a true answer. Jesus warns us against being “weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life.” It might accurately be said that Satan and his evil underlings know us better than we know ourselves. That demonic company knows our weaknesses and the best ways to tempt us. Thus, Jesus tells us to beware of such things, for they are traps being set for the unprepared and unsuspecting.
That’s why so much time is spent in Scripture, and throughout the Advent season, urging us to be ready for the Day of the Lord. We won’t get an email or text at the beginning of the year to let us know of Christ’s return. And, as we learned yesterday, whether he returns before we die or we return to him before his second advent, we will still stand before him to give an account. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather my Advocate, the Lord Jesus Christ, be the one to stand in my place and plead my case by declaring the precious truth that he took upon himself my sin and brokenness, rather than me sharing my own spiritual resume with God.
So, Jesus says in verse 36, “Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.” Always! Minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day, month by month, and so on. We must always be on watch, for the devil is like a lion waiting to pounce upon us in those unguarded moments. Let us also remember we cannot do what is being asked of us, at least not in our own strength. We need the Spirit of the Living God flowing through our hearts, minds, and souls. We need to pray without ceasing and constantly be lovers and students of the Word of God. We need the fellowship of the saints to rally around us with love, care, and encouragement, just as we, in turn, offer the same to them.
When Jesus returns it will not be in secret. The whole world will know. And that will not be the day to “get right with the Lord.” That will be the day, as C.S. Lewis observed, when you discover whose side, you have been on all along. And so, to emphasize the point yet again, today is the day of salvation. Turn to Christ today and live.
“Watch and Pray.” That combination seems so simple yet the need to practice those disciplines daily can wear us down. But that remains our Lord’s admonition. He has our best interest at heart and wants us to persevere to the end and finish our journey well. He has given us his eternal and unchanging Word to encourage and equip us to stand firm against the various distractions of this life. May our hearts and minds be attuned to the rhythm and reminders of Advent, ever watchful for the glorious return of our Lord. Amen.
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Listen, my son, and be wise, and set your heart on the right path: (Proverbs 23:19)
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.