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-Advent as disciple-making-
Date: November 27, 2016 (Advent 1, Year A) 1. Texts: Isaiah 2:1-5; Ps. 122; Romans 13:11-14; Matthew 24:36-44. 2. Subject: Advent. 3. Topic: Advent as impulse to return to God. 4. Aim: evangelize. 5. Proposition: “Advent calls us to return to God as disciples of Christ.”


Behave. Belong. Believe. Behave. Belong. Believe. This is our mantra, the blueprint of our disciple-making. And, according to Advent’s theme, now’s the time that we pay these three some serious attention.

You see, Advent may start four weeks before Christmas, but its theme is not Christmas. Christmas and its materialism seem to dwarf everything in our vision, but Advent is not the season of preparation for Christmas. Advent means coming and it is the season of preparing for the return of Christ. While we love to celebrate Christmas and it requires as much preparation as does Easter, Advent is all about preparing ourselves for Christ’s return, for his second coming.

According to Jesus, we can’t know exactly when that will be: “But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”1 Every time someone tries to figure it out or declare that the end is nigh, they have always been wrong. Only God has the complete knowledge of his plan and it will only be in accord with his plan that the Christ will come again. That he will come is not to be doubted. The only question is one of timing.

So, Jesus advises us to be ready: “Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”2 We know that the end is coming. We know it will have an earth-shattering impact on people. We even know that some people will experience his return as darkness, disaster and tragedy. But it is hugely frustrating that Jesus does not specify how to prepare nor what that preparation will look like.

1 Matthew 24:36. 2 Matthew 24:44.
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-Advent as disciple-making-
This is because a. the fact of the return is indisputable, but the timing is held secret and b. the how and what of the preparation will be determined by our contexts when the end arrives. Each generation has to cope with the fact of the return according to its context. Our preparation will not be the same as a thousand years ago, nor even the same as 100 years ago. The method and content of our preparation must address our needs and understandings. It will be unique to our time and circumstances.

The goal of our preparation will be the same as always: to be ready for the return of Christ. When he comes a second time we really need to be on his side of the divide. And, yes, as uncomfortable as it undoubtedly feels, there will be a divide when Christ comes again: …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.3 Elsewhere Jesus spoke about sheep and goats, foolish and wise bridesmaids, and negligent stewards. His reappearance will create a divide and the goal for our preparation is to be on the Christ-side of that divide.

This is where I think our mantra comes into play: behave, belong, believe.

To learn to behave is to learn what Christian ministry looks like. So we learn to worship, pray and serve. We are given significant and meaningful opportunities to mimic Christ’s behaviours. We do as Christ would do if he were here. This not only shows us the gospel in meaningful ways, it also shows us the acceptance of the Christian community. We behave.

That opens the door to belonging to the community. Our behaviours mark us as part of the community. The community’s acceptance creates a family to which we may belong—a safe place from which to explore our discipleship. We learn to behave as community members and so are integrated into the community. We belong.
3 Matthew 24:39-41.
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-Advent as disciple-making-

Once this is relatively secure, we then work diligently on what we believe. You see, Christian beliefs are complex—just try explaining the Trinity to someone or helping someone figure out the difference between resurrection and reincarnation. Sure, someone can memorize the Nicene Creed and the Lord’s Prayer, but what difference do they make to our daily lives? If Jesus is God incarnate, should that make a difference to how we worship, pray and otherwise behave? This Christian stuff is not easy to sort out.

That’s why the behaving and belonging are so important. They establish both structures and a community so that the disciple has the security to work out the issues of believing. With behaving and belonging behind us, we can then rail against God or the injustices of our circumstances, knowing that we are still secure and loved. We can make sense more easily if we already know how to behave and to which family we belong.

We behave. We belong. We believe. These realities are central to our process of becoming Christ’s disciples in the body of the Church. They also then clearly outline the process of our preparation for Christ’s return. We now have one framework through which we can structure our Advent preparations. If we are to prepare for Christ’s division-creating return, the we must work on enabling everyone to behave like Christ, to belong to his Body and to believe in God as Trinity. Since we don’t know when this is to occur, we must prepare along these lines continuously.

We’re getting very close to being able to take Advent seriously. We have one possible method of preparation as we follow our mantra of behave, belong, believe.

I think we can also fill in some of the content of this process of behaving, belonging and believing.

Remember what Jesus said at the end of his earthly ministry?
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-Advent as disciple-making-
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.4 The process of our Advent preparation is to result in new disciples. As we behave, belong and believe, the desired result is that our discipleship will be improved and others will become disciples of the same master. The content of our preparation is our disciple-making.

Fortunately for us, Jesus does give us some indication what this will look like. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”5 Jesus made it absolutely clear that love expressed in meaningful and contextsensitive ways is one mandatory expression of our discipleship and love for God. St. James reinforced this idea: What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill’, and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith without works, and I by my works will show you my faith. 6 The disciples of Jesus belong to a community which has taught them how to behave in love which creates the opportunity to truly believe in God. We will
4 Matthew 28:19-20. 5 Matthew 25:34-36. 6 James 2:14-18.
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-Advent as disciple-making-
make disciples as we live out the love of God, as we make God’s love tangible and visible in our actions.

This is a concrete and doable process through which we can prepare for that division-making return of Jesus.

So now we know what Advent is about and we know how to celebrate it. We start by being guided by the need to behave, belong and believe. We provide examples of behaving through loving others as God has loved us and this love is made tangible in our service to others. We disciples create a family which is open to new disciples and gives them a secure place to belong. Our believing creates the freedom and acceptance which enables new disciples to explore faithfulness. We do all this with the intent of making new disciples who are capable of loving God and loving others.

All we have to do now is actually believe that the Christ is coming again for which we have to continuously prepare. That means all we have to do now is be Jesus’ disciples carrying out his Great Commission for the salvation of the world.