That’s the big question around town these days. “Are you ready?” “Did you finish your shopping?” Some brag that they started their shopping months ago and have been enjoying the season, while others admit that they haven’t even started yet: “I like the adrenaline rush!” Two weeks and counting down, Christmas will soon be here. Houses are decorated, trees are still going up. And the mall is still a mess, not to mention all the “marts” around the area. I look around at the frantic faces, trying to find just the right gift or to give each child everything on his or her Christmas list, and I know they aren’t ready!
I admit that I’m not ready. Having just gone through a massive computer crash a week ago, requiring a new computer and printer, I guess I’m glad I hadn’t spent the money yet! Of course, now the kids are wondering if that is all they are getting for Christmas. I told them, “Where’s your faith?” I know where mine is—praying for substitute teaching assignments each day the next two weeks so I have money to shop!
For centuries the prophets of Israel asked the same question to their people: “Are you ready?” Most of the time they shouted: “Get Ready!” But their words often fell on deaf ears. I have plenty of time to get right with God, the people might have thought. He is just overreacting, such a dramatic person. While they were putting off getting right with God, they were developing habits and mindsets that kept them from seeing the signs of the times, the signs of the coming of the Messiah. When the day finally came, many failed to recognize the One for whom they had waited so long. Their hearts were not open, and their minds were fixed.
We can see the signs of Christmas everywhere: Lighted deer and trees, an occasional lighted nativity, air-filled snowmen and Santas. We decorate our homes and even wear decorated sweaters and sweatshirts to announce that Christmas is coming. And why not? For most people, especially children, it is a wonder-filled time of year with school programs and new clothes and visits to Santa. We are ready or are getting ready for Christmas because it is a fixed date on our calendar. We know that if we aren’t done in time, we’ll miss it, and so we shop and shop, and clean, and decorate, and bake, so that we will be ready on time.
So I ask again the question, “Are You Ready?” But my question has two other objects in mind. First of all, are you ready for Christmas in your heart? Have you spent these days leading up to Christmas being so busy that you haven’t spent any time thinking about the real meaning of Christmas? If Jesus were coming again on December 25th, would you be ready? You see, friends, there is nothing wrong with enjoying the secular side of Christmas. We can shop and please our loved ones with great gifts and special foods. It is great to fix up the house so people will marvel when they walk in, but have you found the balance between the secular and the sacred?
In this crazy, stress-filled, action-packed time of the year, we spend so much time emphasizing the outward celebration of Christmas that we forget to prepare for the inward celebration, celebrating what really happened over two thousand years ago. We forget that there is another “coming” in the future, when Christ will return for us, this time not as an infant in a manger, but as a conquering King, returning to bring us to His kingdom.
When Christ comes again there will be no circled date on the calendar. He himself said that only the Father knows the date and time. There will be no “getting ready” time with advertising and television commercials to remind you. There will be signs, definitely, but without preparing your heart today, you will never see them. Like the Israelites of old, when we place too much emphasis on the secular parts of our lives, we fail to recognize the spiritual.
There were only two people that I remember in the New Testament who knew about Jesus’ coming without being told by angels, or a star, or anything else: Simeon and Anna. Both were elderly and both spent their days in the Temple worshipping God. They were prepared for Christ’s coming.
Don’t think I’m suggesting you live at church! That would have its own pitfalls. The busy-ness of church life can be just as distracting to the spiritual preparation for celebrating Christmas and for Christ’s Second Coming. So what am I suggesting? If you haven’t started yet, begin today preparing your spiritual house for Christmas, meditating on the gift we received at Christmas and how God’s presence in your life has made a difference. Consider the blessings, small though they may be at times, that you have received and spend time in prayer, thanking God for them. Determine when was the last time you actually spoke to someone about your faith in relation to Christmas; and singing carols doesn’t count!
When you are prepared for the celebration of Christmas, you are well on the way to being prepared for the Second Coming. It is a choice of emphasis, an exercise of balance, keeping focus on the most important thing.
If you know Christ as your Savior, take some time today and each day until Christmas to consider your preparation for Christmas. It will enrich your celebration immensely.
If you have never met Christ, I invite you now, my friend, to the richest, most meaningful relationship you have ever known. Will you ask Christ to be your friend, to forgive your sins, and to live with you forever? I hope you will. If you need help, there are pastors all around who are willing to help you. Come to church on Sunday or call. Need some guidance? My e-mail address is below. Feel free to contact me.
I’ve got to go now. I have some shopping to do.
Mary Kay Glunt, Pastor
Ebenezer Presbyterian Church