This is the season where we all feel compelled to “get ready”.
Are you ready or do you still have trees to cut down and decorate, gifts to buy, Christmas programs to plan, and cookies to bake? Almost daily we are faced with the question – “Are you ready?” Those of us who are list makers are making those lists and checking them twice a day to see if we are almost ready. Our eyes are on the calendar and the countdown to December 25 is very much on our mind – twenty-one shopping days left and counting.
My brother was asked “Are you ready?” this past week and it was a very timely question. He was visiting my mom’s family in western PA while on his yearly hunting trip. As always Stephen, his son Christopher, and our parents stayed at Aunt Dodie’s – the family matriarch since the passing of my grandma twenty years ago. Aunt Dodie is known for being a great cook, laughing harder at herself than anyone else, and having a fierce love for her family. Monday night, after a day in the woods and a batch of Aunt Dodie’s homemade sugar cookies, my brother felt compelled to share with her, “I think I’m going to Heaven soon”. Aunt Dodie easily replied “Well, that’s okay” and then after a brief pause – asked “Are you ready?” – “Are you ready to meet Jesus?”
What Aunt Dodie didn’t know was that the very next morning, while hunting in the woods, my brother would suffer a massive heart attack.
“Are you ready?” She asked…”Yes, Aunt Dodie, I am” he had replied.
How did the shepherds respond when asked by a choir of angels: “Are you ready to meet Jesus?” Luke 2 reports: “When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about’. So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. After seeing him they told everyone…” (Vs. 15-17).
How ready were Herod and the Roman world to meet Jesus? Matthew’s gospel tells us that King Herod “was disturbed and all of Jerusalem with him” (2:3). His disturbance turned to anger and fear that led him to call for the death of all baby boys in Bethlehem and the surrounding area (v. 16).
And what about the religious leaders – how ready were they to meet Jesus? In Mark two we read that their response to witnessing the healing of a paralyzed man was surprise and suspicion (2:6-7).
If Aunt Dodie asked you – “Are you ready to meet Jesus?” how would you respond? Like the religious leaders, the Roman elite, or the shepherds?
Our media immersed culture has hijacked the focus of Christmas preparation and compels us to reflect on trees, presents, and cookies, but occasionally we are reminded of the true focus of our preparation – the lighting of an advent wreath, the singing of a Christmas carol, or the setting up of a nativity set draws our attention back to Jesus the Christ child, “he is the Messiah, the Lord” (Luke 2:11, NIV). He is the Son, who “is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word” (Hebrews 1:3, NIV).
During this season of Advent I pray you are not compelled to confront the question “Are you ready to meet Jesus?” in the way Stephen was, but I do pray you are compelled to examine the question “Are you ready for Jesus?”
When the commercials tempt you to make another Toys R Us run or Amazon search, allow yourself instead time to reflect on the mystery and majesty of this season:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1, 14, NIV)
Colleen Derr, December 2012
Stephen miraculously survived the heart attack in the woods and five additional heart attacks on his way back to Colorado where he awaits open-heart surgery later this week.