December 2019 - Ready or Not, Here I Come
“Ready or Not, Here I Come!”
The busy month of December is here – shopping, decorating, parties, concerts, family gatherings. There’s a lot crammed into a short period of time, and sometimes it can be overwhelming. There is so much going on! I often hear people ask, “Are you ready for Christmas?” My standard response goes like this: “The good news about Christmas is that whether we are ready or not, Christmas still comes.” What do I mean by that? When all is said and done, the blessing of Christmas is not dependent on us and all of our planning and preparation. The blessing of Christmas depends on God, who “when the fullness of time had come… sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4-5). That is what Christmas is all about: the gift of God’s own Son for you and for me; for all people.
Like most children, when my girls were little the game of “Hide and Seek” was great fun. As we all know, it involves everyone hiding, except for one person who does the seeking. After counting up to a certain number, the person who isn’t hiding calls out, “Ready or not, here I come!”, and then goes out to find those who are hiding. There is great anticipation and eager expectation as everyone waits to be found. Within the Christian Church, there is a season that precedes Christmas called Advent. Advent means “to come,” and the One who is coming is the One who has already come. The purpose of this brief, 4-week season is not simply to prepare us to celebrate the Savior’s first coming; that is, his birth at Bethlehem 2000+ years ago (Christmas). The primary purpose of Advent is to prepare us for his second coming; that is, the day when Jesus Christ will call out, “Ready or not, here I come!” The return of Christ in great power and glory on that last day occupies our attention during the season of Advent, inviting us to be ready and prepared for that unknown day when he will come again. Until that day, the same Jesus who came once as a helpless baby comes to us now in his holy Word and Sacraments, offering gifts which only he can give: forgiveness, life, and salvation.
It’s hard to escape all of the messaging of the commercial world at this time of year. For the child of God, though, there is a deeper and more profound meaning to Christmas than just shopping, decorating, gift buying, going to parties and all of the other things that we associate with this holiday. In fact, the word “holiday” itself originates from the two words “holy day.” Behind the holiday of Christmas there is the holy day of Christ’s birth; his becoming flesh and dwelling among us here on earth. Behind all of the tinsel and glitter, there is the miracle of God’s love taking on human form. At Christ’s first coming in Bethlehem, God called out, “Ready or not, here I come!” Was the world ready for the Son of God? Perhaps they were no more ready then than we are now, and yet God was ready, and the gift was given. After his life, death and resurrection, Jesus promised that he would come again, and that is what we now wait and watch for. When God again calls out, “Ready or not, here I come!”, will we be ready?
In these days of Advent that lead up to Christmas, I invite you to spend some quiet time studying God’s Word and in prayer. Reflect upon the gift of God given at Bethlehem so very long ago, the gifts which God gives to us today, and the gift of eternal life which we will fully know when Jesus calls out to each one of us: “Ready or not, here I come!” A stanza of Luther’s Christmas hymn, “From Heaven Above to Earth I Come,” helps to put things into perspective:
Ah, dearest Jesus, holy Child,
Make Thee a bed, soft, undefiled,
Within my heart, that it may be
A quiet chamber kept for Thee.
A blessed Advent and a joyous Christmas to you.