But keep on the alert at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are about to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man (Luke 21:36, NASB).
Life here on Long Island took some unexpected twists over the last five weeks. On October 29, Hurricane Sandy (aka “Superstorm Sandy” or “Frankenstorm”) slammed into the northeastern coastline, inflicting unprecedented damage on Long Island, New York City, New Jersey, and surrounding areas. For decades, residents have been warned to make the necessary preparations for such a natural disaster: buy enough nonperishable food and bottled water, fill your cars with gas, and so on. This time, many of us were urged to evacuate.
Most Long Islanders–myself included–do not take these warnings seriously. I made a few minor preparations; I bought some bottled water, batteries for flashlights and a radio, and some food. But, it seemed silly to waste time at a gas pump; after all, I was sure there would be gas stations open after the storm, and I had half a tank left. This, however, proved to be a hard lesson. Be prepared: Today may not be the day, but eventually those preparations will be necessary.
It did not take too long before I regretted my apathy about gasoline. Automobile fuel became a precious commodity in the days after the storm, as lines at gas stations were often eight or more hours long (yes, we measured them in hours). Sometimes, people would spend hours in a gas line, only to find the station had nothing to offer.
While my house did not lose power or other utilities for any significant amount of time, many of my friends learned the value of those other preparations. About 90% of Long Islanders lost electricity for at least one day, and in some communities running water or sewer service were lacking. I feel sorry for those who chose to stay, and did not buy bottled water or adequate food.
Luke 21 reminds us that we need to be ready for Christ’s return. Luke 21:36 warns us to stay awake, or be alert, at all times, so that we are always ready for the return of the Lord. Jesus warned us not to be weighed down by “dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of life” (Luke 21:34). It is tempting to allow the things of this world (both the good and the bad, the necessities and luxuries of life) to weigh us down and distract us from Him. However, the times when we are most distracted, or Christ seems most unnecessary, are the times when we need to be most ready to spend time with Him.
Advent is a time when we can be most prepared or most distracted. The aftermath of Hurricane Sandy has given way to the maniacal materialism of “Black Friday” and “holiday shopping.” After weeks of abundant charity in the Long Island area, people are resuming their normal lives, which is not always a good thing.
While the world calls us to stores and sales, Christians need to focus more on the coming of the Lord, and His current abiding presence in our lives. That is the message of Advent, as we await the joyous celebration of Christmas. Let us not be swept away by the storm of secularism and materialism as we await the celebration of the coming of Christ.