“May God increase the love and holiness in your hearts so that you will be completely ready to stand before him when our Lord Jesus Christ returns”
(1 Thessalonians chapter 3 verses 12 & 13, paraphrase)
So, we’re still here then? Given the speculation about the “end of the world” coming at the end of the Mayan calendar on 21st December this year, we might be forgiven for wondering whether we would still all be here. I did not for a moment think that the world was due to end on 21st December; I’m sufficiently confident of this that most of this post is being written in advance with the expectation that it will be published. Furthermore, I promised my congregations that if the world did end on 21st I would by each and every one a drink! (It took a moment or two before the penny dropped for some of them.) The calendar ends and so the world must end? That is a bit like saying that if you run out of fingers to count on then there can be no more numbers beyond ten – OK twenty if you take your shoes and socks off! What we learn as children is that there are ways of counting higher numbers: tens, hundreds etc, then powers of ten, googols and the like. To be fair to the Mayans, their calendar has lasted longer than their civilisation so their work has, in a sense, stood the test of time.
Mind you, if all this end-of-the-world talk has meant you have taken the trouble to get some extra supplies in just in case, then you should have a better chance of coping with the next big freeze, drought, earthquake or other natural disaster that trouble us from time to time. It is well to be prepared, to be ready, just in case.
One of the great themes of Advent poses this question: are you ready for Jesus? We can get so caught up with getting ready for the Christmas celebrations, with getting the birthday party ready you might say, that we forget about the guest of honour! Being ready for Jesus works in three ways: ready to celebrate the festival of his birth and the salvation that his life, death and resurrection have already brought; ready to greet Jesus in his “little ones”, to recognise Jesus in other people; ready to meet him face to face at some point in the future whenever that time comes.
Paul’s prayer to his friends in Thessalonica is that God will increase their love and holiness so that they “will be completely ready”. I’m not sure that I am completely ready but I agree that I need God’s help.
A prayer from “Common Worship”
Almighty God, as we prepare with joy to celebrate the gift of the Christ-child, embrace the earth with your glory and be for us a living hope in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Additional Collect for Christmas Eve)