We are a story, a living story, if we are anything, and this is one reason, maybe the best, why stories will never go out of fashion.
In my own family, much of our time together revolves around stories. We read them every night and often the children read more on their beds, flashlights in hand, before sleep, then waking the next morning to, on the long school run, often listen to more stories.
In the best of these stories, characters are as alive as you or me or the sorry soul walking down the street. We share in their joys, and, of course, more so, their troubles. In the good stories, the ones we can’t help but fall into, we’re never left the same.
Into this now comes Christmas. So, this Christmas season, the Daily Dad will share from The Story.
I am among the dozens of Canadian writers who have contributed to The Story, which is now in its 82nd week of online postings. Through December, for Christmas, I’ll share five of my contributions, some reflections from the books of Matthew and Mark.
Some are among the stories read in my own family at one time or another. Others are not. Each shares a brief story or passage from Scripture, then my reflection, then, at end, a short reader response.
I hope you enjoy.
Today’s selection, here or below, is #5 of 5.
24In those days, straight after that time of suffering,
“The sun will become dark,
and the moon
will no longer shine.
25The stars will fall,
and the powers in the sky
will be shaken.”
26Then the Son of Man will be seen coming in the clouds with great power and glory.27He will send his angels to gather his chosen ones from all over the earth.
28Learn a lesson from a fig tree. When its branches sprout and start putting out leaves, you know summer is near.29So when you see all these things happening, you will know that the time has almost come.30You can be sure that some of the people of this generation will still be alive when all this happens.31The sky and the earth will not last for ever, but my words will.
32No one knows the day or the time. The angels in heaven don’t know, and the Son himself doesn’t know. Only the Father knows.33So watch out and be ready! You don’t know when the time will come.34It is like what happens when a man goes away for a while and places his servants in charge of everything. He tells each of them what to do, and he orders the guard to keep alert.35So be alert! You don’t know when the master of the house will come back. It could be in the evening or at midnight or before dawn or in the morning.36But if he comes suddenly, don’t let him find you asleep.
Contemporary English Version. Copyright © 1995 British & Foreign Bible Society. Used by permission.
In Uganda, where my family and I have lived for some years, night guards are commonly hired. Institutions, businesses or even private residences hire guards for protection from thieves who otherwise would carry out their business without resistance or fear.
Everyone needs to be alert. And nobody wants a guard who just wants to sleep the night away. Neither does anyone appreciate a guard who will pound on your door in the middle of the night to warn you of things that turn out to be only shadows or harmless trees.
Jesus, in his final comments to Peter, James, John and Andrew about the end times, reinforces what he has already told them in various ways: stay alert. Stay alert not only for the end itself, but stay alert for false rumours and false prophets.
I once a read a blockbuster book that argued with conviction that Christ would very likely return within one generation, or forty years after the 1948 birth of the modern state of Israel. Millions of others also read this book, first published in 1970 and then reprinted repeatedly. Its argument that the 1980s were likely “the end” was supported by a long list of biblical references. But the authors were wrong, just like other, similar misguided prophetic predictions.
Jesus’ words remind us that there will indeed be an end time, a time of intense suffering cut short only because of God’s great love for humanity. It will eventually lead to an entire new earth. But Jesus’ words also remind us that nobody except God the Father knows the precise timing of these events.
This is how we are kept watchful and humble and also focused on what is most important: living in “the now,” with a spirit of thanksgiving and service.
Loving Heavenly Father: Thank you for watching over me and the entire earth, watching like a guard, and, even when you are silent, knowing exactly what is happening. I put all the world’s tomorrows into your hands. And I put my every today into your care too.