Monday, December 06, 2010

Joyful and Sober

Advent is a season full of joyful expectation, but it is also a season of sober preparation. And we really do need to work hard at holding these two things together. Our two greatest dangers are either going along with the cultural flow of shopping and parties and excitement, which when done rightly is basically jumping up and down on the joyful expectation side of things. And this can be wonderful and good. But our other danger is overreacting to imbalance in this area, and veering off into gloomy, cranky austerity, sneering and humbugging all the overindulgence and joyfoppery. But Advent is a season of joyful expectation and sober preparation. It should be joyful and sobering to consider the coming of our King.

In Matthew 22, Jesus tells the parable of the wedding feast in which a King invites his friends to the wedding of his son. Many of the intended guests spurn the invitation and kill the servants delivering the invitations, so they are destroyed and the invitation goes out to the highways and all are invited, good and bad alike until the wedding hall was filled with guests. But when the king comes to see the guests he found a man who did not have a wedding garment on, and the king had his servants bind the man and cast him out into the darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. This parable comes just shortly after the parable of the two sons, in which the first son said that he would not obey his father but later went and obeyed, while the second son said he would obey but then did not.

Jesus’ parables are warnings in two different directions. He warns against those who are disobedient and in high handed rebellion, those who refuse His commands, those who reject Him openly and explicitly, but Jesus is also warning against those who say they will obey, who say they will come to the wedding, but who then in fact do not obey, who do not prepare for the wedding. This is the second Sunday in Advent, but every Sunday is an Advent Sunday. Every Sunday the King comes to see the wedding guests. And ultimately every one of us will meet the King face to face.

And this is the point: Do not use Advent to merely get ready for Christmas. Use Advent as a time to prepare to meet your King. None of us knows the day or hour when we will meet Him. Our lives are frail and fragile, and our God holds the breath of every living creature in His wise hands. Whether Christ returns or we are taken from this life to be with Christ, we will appear before the King. The King will come, and every one of us will stand before Him and give an account for our lives. Are you clinging to Christ? Are all your hopes bound up in Him? Have you already died, and is your life hidden with God in Christ? Then by the grace of God, to live is Christ and to die is gain, and this is cause for joyful expectation.

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