If your dentist is like mine, you usually receive a reminder in the mail just a week or so before your next scheduled visit. I really appreciate the reminder, but it never comes soon enough. Immediately following a visit to the dentist, I’m really good about flossing and rinsing on a regular basis. When I get the card a week or two before the next appointment, I start rinsing and flossing with a renewed passion and commitment. It’s those 6 to 12 months in between visits, however, that I really need to work on (please don’t tell my dentist).
The postcard comes as a warning, too little too late. I’ve been blessed so far with relatively healthy teeth (only a couple of cavities so far). That’s not the problem. For me the problem is the shame and guilt that comes with the visit, having to confess to the hygienist that I haven’t been flossing, rinsing, or brushing as thoroughly as I ought. I go through the same cycle of emotions. The postcard tells me to get my act together so I can avoid the critical reproach of my beloved dentist.
And that is what Advent is all about.
We struggle to manage the busyness of our lives. Seasons come and go. We plan for tomorrow and tomorrow’s tomorrow. Eventually we get lulled into a sense of complacency and comfort, never really thinking about the meaning behind what we’re doing. Then Advent comes along. In the middle of our Christmas preparations, the presents, the decorations, the family visits; Advent stands out like a postcard from heaven saying, “Get it together, Jesus is coming back.”
For the longest time I struggled with the fact that the recommended lectionary readings for the first Sunday of Advent every year are all about the Second Coming of Christ. Jesus tells us that there will be signs and omens, persecutions and catastrophes, wars and rumors of wars; all of this would take place before the coming of the Son of Man. I wondered how this was a Christmas message at all. Now I realize that Advent is not a “countdown to Christmas,” and Christmas isn’t just about the birth of our Savior. Advent is a blaring alarm, calling us out of the monotony of our spiritual lives, reminding us to keep watch and be ready. Christmas is a celebration of the birth of our Savior, of God dwelling with us; just as much as it is a reminder that if Christ came once to save us, He will return to bring us home.
Jesus is coming back, are you ready? I don’t want to be caught unprepared, with a crushing sense of guilt and shame for having not lived up to His calling. Advent reminds me to get back to the work at hand, to live for Him so that people will see that He lives in me.
Consider this Advent your wake up call. Be ready, keep watch for you never know – our Lord is coming soon. It might just be today!