I have heard that Advent is a time of preparation for Jesus to be born again in our hearts; or a time of preparation for the second coming of Jesus as he comes as Judge; or a time of preparation to meet Jesus if we die before he comes again. I don’t really think we are preparing for Jesus to be born in a manger. That happened a long time ago and it is not going to happen again. We don’t need to prepare to remember what happened. However we do need to prepare to actually meet Jesus in our hearts and our relationships.
Many people find Christmas a happy time filled with all kinds of activities and family gatherings. A time to leave the drudgery of everyday life and embrace a season of celebration … although many might struggle to articulate what they are celebrating. For other people Christmas may be a little sad. The absence of loved ones, or the remembrance of broken dreams may leave some wondering what really is there to celebrate. Especially if money is tight and demands are high.
A death in my family, of someone very close to me has made this call to prepare to meet Jesus tower above all other concerns of life. It has never been more clear to me that this preparation is by far the most important collective activity of our lives on earth. I say collective because it would be very hard to prepare on our own.
Some 30 years ago Steven Covey wrote a book entitled “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”. This was a very popular book and he offered week long seminars on how to cultivate these 7 habits. Habit number 1 was “begin with the end in mind”. In other words, from the very beginning determine what success looks like for you so that you can make sure everything that you do will move you closer to your success and not away from it.
As I looked upon my family member who had gone on to meet the Lord I realized that I was looking at the “end in mind” for this life on earth. Everyone of us is headed for that end, and it became clear to me that there is nothing in this world more important than preparing for that end. Of course as a Christian I know that death is not the end for us any more than it was the end for Jesus. I also know that the Bible tells us that there is an appointed time to die for every one of us, and then comes judgement. On the one hand I trust in the mercy of God and Jesus the great high priest to save me and my family … but on the other hand I don’t want to find out, as my life is reviewed, that I missed the purposes for which I was sent. I love Jesus (because he loved me first) and I want to allow him to accomplish his work through me before it is time for me to leave.
The words of Jesus to his disciples the day before his passion became my resting place and my strength in this season of loss. He had just explained that he would be killed, and he saw that his disciples were in various states of shock. It was then that he said to them (and to us) “do not let your hearts be troubled (at all). Have faith in my Father and in me. I go to prepare a place for you so that you may come and be with me where I am.” Wow, now that is good news! His disciples could not see it as good news. They had given up everything to follow him. He was their world and their hope for the future and now they were told that they would lose him. And yet in the face of what seemed like disaster to them he said to them (and to us) … don’t let any worry find a home in your hearts about any of what is about to happen (because you have a home in heaven that far exceeds the joy of your home here).
So how does one prepare to meet Jesus and to go to that place he has prepared for us. Jesus says Love God and love your neighbor. Saint Paul says it like this … if you live according to the selfish nature you will die, but if you permit the Holy Spirit to put to death the deed of the selfish nature, you will live. He also says rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in all circumstances (the bad and the good). This is my starting point. My plan is to call on the name of the Lord often every day in prayer in my quiet time and in my service so that I will be prepared. Scripture says that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord (Jesus) will be saved.
Father God you are the source of all that is good and You have given us so much. You have given us Your very self, Your life, Your truth, Your holiness, Your glory, Your mercy, Your love, Your Spirit, and even Your Son. You have spoken to us in the past through Your holy apostles and disciple and You continue to speak to us today by the Holy Spirit who speaks to all who are humble and will listen. You have said so much and we seem to listen to You so little. Forgive our slowness of heart Lord and give us the grace to hear and obey You today. Amen