It is beginning to look like late Advent here at this old house. Decorations are up, baking is filling tins on the top of the refrigerator, and greeting card supplies are piled on the desk. We are well into Advent, especially since the Fourth Sunday of Advent only lasts 18 hours this year. It falls on December 24th and Christmas Eve begins at sundown.

I have been thinking a lot about life in Jerusalem. Our time there last spring continues to bear fruit in our daily lives. Since 1993, we have been drawn to Israel and especially the Old City of Jerusalem. I am in touch with friends there still and am watching them prepare for Christmas in the Old City and surrounding areas. They have also been deeply impacted by the USA’s announcement that it would recognize Jerusalem as the capitol of Israel.Image result for free photo city of jerusalem

Some here have applauded that move, relieved that a President has finally had the “courage” to say what needs to be said. Others recognize the political landmine that is Jerusalem, seeing the statement as a lit match near a can of gasoline. In Israel, Palestinians have turned off the lights on their Christmas trees in protest. The Palestinian Christians once again are caught in the cross fire between the Muslim community and the Jewish community, vilified by both sides as “agents of the West.” Unfortunately, Western civilization has come to be synonymous with Christianity. The Crusades are still fresh in their memory as well. God forgive us.

This whole issue was brought home to me last Sunday in the second reading appointed for the day:

2 Peter 3: 3 Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.

11 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. 13 But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.

What hit me is we hasten the coming of Christ through living holy and godly lives. I sensed in the announcement from Washington that some people were excited for the wrong reasons. To hear the declaration of Jerusalem as the capitol of the modern state of Israel fed into a belief that yet another step was checked off the list of signs that must happen before Christ will come again. Yet, just as many in Biblical Israel missed the signs that pointed to the Messiah and so missed who Jesus was, so today, some think certain political events are definitive signs that herald the Second Coming of Christ. Even more frightening to me are those who wish to force those signs to happen so that the day will come more quickly without any regard to how those actions will impact real people’s daily lives.

Peter tells us that it is in the way that we live today right where we are that will bring the Kingdom of God. Maybe that is the message of Advent, a time when we reflect on Christ’s first coming to Bethlehem, his coming daily to us through the Holy Spirit, and his future coming in glory: what kind of people ought we to be? What kind of person am I really?