November 5th - 4th Sunday before Advent Matthew 24: 1-14
As Jesus left the temple and was walking away, His disciples came up to Him to point out its buildings. “Do you see all these things?” He replied. “Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; everyone will be thrown down.” While Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming and of the end of the age?” Jesus answered, “See to it that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumours of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. These things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains. Then they will deliver you over to be persecuted and killed, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. At that time many will fall away and will betray and hate one another, and many false prophets will arise and mislead many. Because of the multiplication of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold. But the one who perseveres to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
Advent is a period when we look forward to the Lord’s coming. Not only is it a time when we remember the coming of the Lord Jesus as a baby to reveal the Father to us, but we look forward to his promised return.
The temple, set high on mount Sion was built of white marble plated with gold, a dazzling sight in the sunshine and much to be admired. However, Jesus was more concerned with the building of relationships between people and their Father in Heaven. As the disciples admired the structure, Jesus warned them of terrible days ahead when the temple would be destroyed, which was fulfilled in AD 70.The Lord Jesus reassured his disciples that this did not mean that God would abandon them. God’s purposes are to bring about a new creation where peace and justice reign. Before this happens, Jesus warns his followers, many deceivers will come so they will need to be watchful and faithful while they wait for his Coming again.
Over the next weeks we will be preparing for Christmas. What does Christmas mean to you? How might you be preparing for Jesus’ return?
November 12th - 3rd Sunday before Advent: Matthew 25: 1-13
“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take along any extra oil. But the wise ones took oil in flasks along with their lamps. When the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep. At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’ ‘No,’ said the wise ones, ‘or there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’ But while they were on their way to buy it, the bridegroom arrived. Those who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet, and the door was shut. Later the other virgins arrived and said, ‘Lord, lord, open the door for us!’ But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’ Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.
According to Jewish custom, when there was a wedding, instead of the couple going away on honeymoon they stayed at home and kept open house. They were celebrated by the whole village. The bridesmaids kept the bride company until the bridegroom arrived and then the door was shut and the wedding feast began. The parable reminds us that certain things cannot be obtained at the last minute, for instance, we might think we can decide about our relationship to God later in life, but we might not get the opportunity. The foolish virgins want to borrow oil from the others who still have some, but the wise virgins refuse to do this. The parable also reminds us that there are things we cannot borrow from others. We cannot borrow someone else’s relationship with God, we need to personally invite the Lord Jesus into our lives in order to have a living relationship with him.
How can you ensure you have all you need for your spiritual journey ?
November 19th – 2nd Sunday before Advent Matthew: 25:14-30
For it is just like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted them with his possessions. To one he gave five talents, to another two talents, and to another one talent—each according to his own ability. And he went on his journey. The servant who had received the five talents went at once and put them to work and gained five more. Likewise, the one with the two talents gained two more. But the servant who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground, and hid his master’s money. After a long time the master of those servants returned to settle accounts with them. The servant who had received the five talents came and presented five more. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’ His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Enter into the joy of your master!’ The servant who had received the two talents also came and said, ‘Master, you entrusted me with two talents. See, I have gained two more.’ His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Enter into the joy of your master!’ Finally, the servant who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Master, I knew that you are a hard man, reaping where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what belongs to you.’ ‘You wicked, lazy servant!’ replied his master. ‘You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed. Then you should have deposited my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received it back with interest. Therefore take the talent from him and give it to the one who has ten talents. For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. But the one who does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. And throw that worthless servant into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
This passage is known as, “The Parable of the Talents.” A talent is a weight rather than a coin and therefore its value depended upon whether is was copper, gold or silver. The useless servant is thought to depict the Scribes and Pharisees who believed it was important to keep the Law exactly as it was, which resulted in paralysing religious truth. Their teaching lacked flexibility and resulted in closed minds. The two servants who have done well are rewarded by being given greater responsibility. Following Jesus is an adventure as we invest our faith in worthwhile projects and trust God for his blessing on whatever we undertake e.g. a Food Bank or a project which benefits the community.
Christians are called to encourage one another. What gifts and abilities would you like to see invested in your local community?
November 26th- Sunday next before Advent – Christ the King Matthew 25.31-end
When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate the people one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on His right and the goats on His left. Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who 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 something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you took Me in, I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you looked after Me, I was in prison and you visited Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? When did we see You sick or in prison and visit You?’ And the King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.’ Then He will say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave Me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, I was naked and you did not clothe Me, I was sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’ And they too will reply, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ Then the King will answer, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for Me.’ And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
The gospel reminds us that one day we will have to give account of ourselves before Christ the King, who reigns over all. This will involve all nations and there will be a simple division, those who have met the needs of the needy and those who turned a blind eye. In rewarding those who have shown compassion the Lord Jesus makes it personal, “I was hungry,.thirsty,, a stranger ..sick and in prison”. “Whatever you did to one of my brothers or sisters, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you did for me” the Lord states. Equally condemnation is meted out to those who showed no compassion. The way to delight the heart of God is to help his children.
As you ponder over this reading, what do you think the Lord Jesus might be asking you today?