“Prepare Ye The Way: When?”
I love the season of Advent. It’s a time to get ready. Sure there’s the hustle and bustle of getting ready for Christmas, but there’s also the excitement building for the celebration that is coming. For me, it all builds up to that special night. The night we all gather here in this place and rejoice and celebrate the real reason behind all that is going on. Christmas Eve is often our most powerful, meaningful, emotional service of the year. It’s a service of joy and peacefulness around what happened in a countryside stable.
We now know we have less than 30 days before it comes. Some of us are organized, and there are lists of things that need to be done. The calendar might be filling up with all the extra events that tend to happen this time of year. The shopping days, the parties, the dinners, the rehearsals, the concerts, the extra services, the family gatherings. Christmas Eve will be here before we know it. This month, like the rest of the year, will pass faster than we expect it will. We’ll come into the last few days, wondering how we will ever get it all done. But in the end, does it really matter?
Does it matter if we are missing a special dish on a table that is over-flowing with food? Does it matter if we are missing a tiny gift under a tree threatening to take over our living room with the abundance of gifts? Does it matter if we forget to send a card to someone we can call and wish a merry Christmas to in person?
This is Advent. I invite you to join with me on a journey to “prepare the way” for the coming Christ into our lives and homes this holiday season. To spend time not only preparing for the Christmas feast of food and gifts, but to also spend time preparing for the gift of the one who was sent by God to show us the way, to make all things right, and to bring us back into God’s care.
The good news, we can count down to this event. We know December 25th is coming, and we are able to prepare for it. But, do we know when Christ will return? Do we know when God will call His people home? No we don’t. Jesus doesn’t offer us any help here this morning either.
In our reading from Matthew today, Jesus tells us no one knows but God. Not even the angels know. Noah didn’t know when the rain would start. No one did. They just lived their lives as they always did, every day held the same activities. Then all of a sudden it began to rain.
Things don’t always happen as we plan them to, do they? Unexpected things happen. Things we may not be prepared for. And when it happens, we get caught by surprise and wish we had planned better.
One nice summer day while we were in university, Bev and I took a drive out to a beautiful park over looking the river and part of the Annapolis Valley. We had a picnic, enjoyed a hike along a popular trail… that is until the rain started. When we left town it was a gorgeous sunny day. We didn’t take any rain gear, we just grabbed some food and headed for the hills. It was a soggy drive home that afternoon after spending a number of minutes walking, or running, back to the car in a heavy downpour. We weren’t prepared for all that could happen.
Throughout the Old Testament prophets warned the people to be ready for the coming Messiah. They told them there would be a time when God would send someone to make things right. To bring peace to the world, turning nations away from war and into a time of prosperity. As we read in Isaiah, “He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”
Yet, when Jesus came, they were not ready. The leaders of the nations resisted him, they challenged him, and in the end, they killed him because they did not see the gift they had been given. They expected a ruler, a king, to come, they did not expect who really came. They expected a Messiah to come and tell them how good they were doing, to praise them for how faithful they were. They did not see how Jesus was telling them how they ought to be. They did not see he was trying to help them get closer to God.
But the story is not over. The religious leaders of Jesus’ time were not ready for his arrival. They did not see how Jesus was the promised one from the Old Testament prophets, despite the fact they were the experts on scripture of their day. They were unprepared. They didn’t know when he was coming. When he did show up, they got defensive, they held on to what they knew because they weren’t ready.
Are we ready? If Jesus walked into the world today, would we be ready?
Jesus doesn’t tell us when he will return. He simply said one day there will be two people working away as they always do, and one will be gone. Just like with the people of Noah’s time, the unexpected will happen. The flood came and no one was ready, and they missed their chance.
The workers in the field, one was ready, one was not.
The women preparing a meal, one was ready, one was not.
We do not know when Jesus will return. But he has promised us he will. Someday. If you know something is going to happen, then we need to be ready. Jesus said, “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.”
If it were only that easy, right?
Sure today we have 9-1-1, we have alarm systems in our home, we feel like we’re ready. But alarm systems fail. 9-1-1 calls can’t be made if no one sees what’s happening. There are unforeseen delays in response time by police. The system isn’t perfect because it’s made by human hands, and we are imperfect.
Perfection has come, and will come again. Since we don’t know when, all we can do is learn from our friends in the boys and girls scouts and “be prepared”.
But if we don’t know when, what does being prepared look like?
Do we need to have a suitcase packed and by the door like couples who are expecting the birth of a child? Do we need to have an escape plan for our homes like we are told to have in case of fire?
No we don’t.
Being prepared means believing in Jesus Christ as the Messiah. The Saviour to the world who has been sent by God to come and redeem His fallen world.
Being prepared means knowing Jesus Christ, learning about him and what he taught us all.
Being prepared means to follow the urgings he places in our hearts to help the world become a better place, by living our lives as faithful people and standing up for and helping those in need.
Being prepared means that when Jesus returns, we will be ready. We will recognize him because we have allowed ourselves to know him intimately. We have allowed him to shape our entire being so that we are certain we are God’s child.
Throughout Advent, I invite you to look at how prepared you are. Jesus Christ will return at an unexpected time, we really don’t know when.
But until then, we can continually check just how prepared we are by asking ourselves, “Where is Jesus in my life today?”
Where is Jesus in your life?
If we know the answer to where, then it doesn’t really matter when.