Advent is normally seen as a type of countdown to Christmas. We have special calendars and wreaths with candles that graphically display the arrival of Christmas and remind us of the first coming of Jesus.
Advent has another aspect, though. From the beginning, Jesus’ plan was to prominently come into this world twice, though in some form He has always been here. With His first coming the main mission was to fulfill God’s law for the whole human race and to pay the price for humanity’s sin. Mission accomplished. Jesus’ second coming is to judge all of mankind, destroy the tainted creation that this universe is, and to instantly remake it free from sin and the curse. Advent should also remind us that Jesus is coming again, and that could be at any time. You should expect this mission to be accomplished as well.
The Christmas holiday is a defined number of days away. If I am caught unprepared I have no one to blame but myself. Jesus’ coming again, and for that matter my own death, are coming; but they are an indefinite number of days away. Both could be today. How do you prepare for such things?
In Matthew 25, Jesus tells three parables that basically give us two ways to prepare for Jesus’ return and an explanation of what Judgment Day will be like. The same “preparations” make good ways to be ready for our own deaths at any time.
The first parable is a story of ten bridesmaids waiting for a bridegroom. In ancient Israel they used to play a game where the bridegroom would not announce when he was going to arrive in town for the wedding. The goal was to sneak in and catch the wedding party unprepared. The bridesmaids would have oil lamps burning in case the bridegroom came at night. The wise ones brought extra oil in case it took a very long time. In this parable the oil represents faith. Faith, like oil, can run dry. This need not happen. God provides the means for faith to remain vital always. God’s Word and the Lord’s Supper provide the “oil” necessary to remain connected to Jesus until you meet Him face-to-face. This is the most critical way to be prepared.
The second parable tells the story of a landowner who leaves three men in charge of differing amounts of money. The money in this case represents all the different things that God provides that require us to be good managers of it. This includes our financial means, the time we are given here, our skill set (both learned and spiritual gifts), our opportunities to serve, our relationships with others, the planet itself, our knowledge of the Gospel, even saving faith itself. God expects a return on this investment.
Judgment Day is a two-fold event like Advent. On the one hand, it clearly and finally segregates those whose sins are forgiven through Jesus from those who rejected the one and only way to be saved. On the other, Judgment Day is an evaluation of the works of those who are saved. Noble deeds without forgiveness are of temporary value. Standing on the grace of God, God empowered good stewardship gets an additional reward. What type of reward will it be. It doesn’t say, but you can bet it will be more than worth any effort we make.
Advent’s annual message is this. Life is valuable when spent in service to God, but it is short. Be ready for its end at any time. Jesus has already put in place a way to eternal joy. Don’t miss out when the time comes to inherit what He has prepared.