Matthew 24:36-44

But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, 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. Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.  Matthew 24:36-44

 

This Sunday, the first Sunday of Advent, marks the first Sunday of the new Christian year.  What does it mean for us to begin a new year with a gospel reading that is so often seen only as a promise (warning?) of the second coming, or the final appearing, of Jesus?

 

Stephen Covey is credited with the phrase “begin with the end in mind.”  He included this maxim among his Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.  I first read that book at the suggestion of Kirt Tabbert.  Kirt was a key leader in the congregation I served and one of many people from whom I learned much more than he ever learned from me.  I immediately bought and read the book.  I have been chasing these habits since then:

 

1.  Be proactive. Don’t stand still. Take the initiative and be responsible.

2.  Begin with the end in mind. Start any activity, a meeting, run, day, or life, with an end in mind. Work to that end and make sure your values are aligned with your goals.

3.  Put first things first. Prioritize your life so you’re working on the important stuff.

4.  Think win/win. Not everything has to be “I win, you lose”.  Creatively find ways so that everyone wins together.

5.  Seek first to understand, then to be understood. Listen to empathize, obtain information, and understand the other person’s point of view.

6.  Synergize. Work to create outcomes that are greater than the individual parts.

7.  Sharpen the saw. Cultivate the essential elements of your character: physical, mental, social/emotional, and spiritual.

 

I still find those seven habits (although they don’t align directly, who can’t hear the echoes of the seven deadly sins?) to be excellent distillations of following Jesus in a life of faith.  Such habits guide a life lived on purpose, for a purpose, that is greater than ourselves.

 

So we begin a new year with anticipation, expecting, the miracle of Jesus’ appearing, not simply at the end of time, but in our daily lives.  This is about expectation born of faith, not dread born of fear.  God does amazing things.  Why not now?  Why not among us?  Why not through us?

 

Let us pray:  Open our hearts and minds, Lord, that we might more clearly anticipate and even expect your continuing presence, your captivating power, and your creative passion in, among, around, and through us.  As we move into a new year of worship, witness, and service, we pray that you might do for us what we cannot do for ourselves, and that we might do what only we can do, always beginning with the end in mind.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen. 

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