category: Advent

2023 Advent Devotion: Day 1

Advent 2023 cover

Sunday, December 3

Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19; Isaiah 64:1-9; Mark 13:24-37; 1 Corinthians 1:3-9

“Keep alert,” Jesus said, because Advent (Jesus’ “coming”) begins today!

The church actually spends four dedicated Sundays preparing for Jesus’ arrival, including many weekday and weeknight events as well. Christians and non-Christians alike light candles, decorate homes, put up manger scenes, bring Christmas trees indoors, buy gifts, sing carols, hang stockings, dress children to look like wise men, angels, and shepherds, and nearly everyone gets into the holiday spirit.

For all of this expended energy, Christmas reminds us that just as surely as Jesus came the first time, he will come again. Truth is, God likely will catch as many of us by surprise the second time as Jesus did when he came the first time. Never mind that many books have been written prognosticating the timeline for Jesus’ next arrival; Jesus’ wise council was simple and straightforward: “Keep alert!” for “you do not know when the time will come” (Mark 13:33).

In fact, much of Mark 13 describes the end of the Temple in Jerusalem, which actually fell in A.D. 70. Following his earlier remarks, Jesus transitioned to describe the coming of the Son of Man in “those days after that tribulation.” His simple shift from “these” (“this”) to “those” (“that”) indicates a movement from the “near” to the “far.” The “near” Jerusalem of Jesus’ day fell just as Jesus had predicted that it would, within 40 years of his saying so. And just as directly as Jesus had declared that destruction, he said that the “far” coming of the Son of Man may be in the evening, at midnight, at cockcrow, or at dawn (v. 35). His coming will be as sudden as a returning homeowner who had been away on business but had not given the housekeepers an anticipated return date. So be ready, because no one knows when he will return, neither the angels nor the Son, only the Father (v. 32)!

Paul spoke similarly to the Corinthians of his day that they should “wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:7), echoing the words of the Psalmist: “Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved” (80:7). Each one of these verses captures what Isaiah had shared once with God’s people: “O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence” (64:1).

These verses all speak with and use intervention language. God’s people often need an intervention.
We need something to interrupt our routines, something to shake us out of our complacency, something that challenges our misguided ways, and something that refocuses our energy and efforts on God and on other people—not on ourselves.

I am reminded of the medallion that hangs in many places on Gardner-Webb University’s campus. It bears the important Latin phrase: Pro Deo et Humanitate—“For God and Humanity.” When we keep things in that order: God first, and humanity in close proximity, we will be ready for the Son of Man’s coming this Christmas 2023.

Robert W. Canoy
Dean, School of Divinity and Professor of Theology

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2023 Advent Devotion: Day 2

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