I don’t know if it is any different this year, but so many people have told me recently that they just aren’t ready for Christmas. Maybe it is the unseasonably mild weather which feels as if we are still in early Autumn. Maybe it is our sheer level of busyness which means we don’t have to time to plan ahead. Whatever the reason, we only have ten days left before the big day.
Isn’t it interesting, however, how unprepared we are even when we know the date of Christmas? It makes me wonder, then, how ready we will be at the time when Jesus decides to return. Because despite the confident predictions some make about the end times, Jesus tells us No-one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father (Matthew 24:36). So Jesus’ return will not be a date we can put on the calendar, or an event for which we can make last-minute preparations. Jesus will suddenly appear, and either we will be ready or we will not.
That is the reason why the church at least still marks the season of Advent, even if everyone is focusing on 25th December. Advent is a time to prayerfully examine our lives and to reflect on our general state of preparation to meet with our Lord. It is a call to turn aside from the Christmas rush and to come honestly and openly before our Lord.
Of course I am aware that it’s very easy to respond to the challenge of Advent like the white rabbit in Alice in Wonderland and say, “No time! No time!” But if Jesus is coming back as Lord and Judge of all, then it seems to me there is no more important thing we can do than take Advent seriously. As Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians, chapter 5:
4 But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. 5 You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. 6 So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. 8 But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.