As we continue to look forward to Emmanuel, God with us, we jump forward many generations after God breathed life into Adam. We are now walking with the children of Israel in the desert after their escape from slavery in Egypt. God chose this time to reveal himself once again. Exodus 40:34 reads: “Suddenly the sacred tent was covered by a thick cloud and filled with the glory of the LORD. And so, Moses could not enter the tent.” This was a different kind of appearing. This was no intimate breath, but a cloud so thick that it was unapproachable. We read through Exodus and Leviticus and find that this time God came with a multitude of rules, instead of just one. The people now understood that right and wrong existed, but it appears that they were sometimes fuzzy on which was which.
Israel was not just morally lost. They were physically lost. They had no idea where they were. So God led them through the desert. Numbers 9:17-23 tells us more about the cloud. “The LORD used this cloud to tell the Israelites when to move their camp and where to set it up again. As long as the cloud covered the tent, the Israelites did not break camp. But when the cloud moved, they followed it, and wherever it stopped, they camped and stayed there, whether it was only one night, a few days, a month, or even a year. As long as the cloud remained over the tent, the Israelites stayed where they were. But when the cloud moved, so did the Israelites. They obeyed the LORD’s commands and went wherever he directed Moses.”
Jesus said that he would be coming back in much the same way. Mark 13:26 says “Then the Son of Man will be seen coming in the clouds with great power and glory.” Later, in verses 32-37 Jesus tells us to be alert, and be ready for his return: “No 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. So watch out and be ready! You don’t know when the time will come. It 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. So 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. But if he comes suddenly, don’t let him find you asleep. I tell everyone just what I have told you. Be alert!”
Just as the Israelites waited for the cloud to move, we need to be patient in waiting for Jesus to return. But we are not resting. As Jesus’ servants, we are to keep doing what he told us to do, and we are to be ready! We don’t want to miss his return, and we don’t want to be found sleeping on the job. Earlier in Mark 13, Jesus gives clear direction about what the disciples are to do. Verses 9-10 read: “Be on your guard! You will be taken to courts and beaten with whips in their meeting places. And because of me, you will have to stand before rulers and kings to tell about your faith. But before the end comes, the good news must be preached to all nations.”
Jesus tells us that we need to tell others about our faith in him. That is work that we are required to do. It is necessary that everyone has the chance to know who Jesus is. We need to be ready for his return, and we need to help others to be ready also.
Today we again light the first candle, the candle of forgiveness, and we light the second candle, the candle of readiness. Who will light it with me?