Each Sunday when we come together to celebrate the holy mass we pray the Creed, stating what exactly we believe. One of the things we always say as part of that prayer is: ‘He (Jesus) will come again to judge the living and the dead.’ That is what we believe. God came and walked among us in the person of Jesus and Jesus will come again to judge all people. No one knows when this will happen, but Jesus has told us that this will happen. Maybe it will be during our life-time, or maybe not.
Today we officially begin our spiritual preparation for Christmas. We are preparing for two things: we are remembering the first coming of Jesus at Christmas born as a baby into a human family; and we are remembering that Jesus will come again in glory at the end of time.
All around us with so much emphasis on buying gifts, it is easy to forget what this feast is about. In all the advertising that we hear there is almost no mention of the birth of Christ; the coming of the Son of God to set his people free from eternal death; to win the most wonderful thing imaginable for all of us: a life of eternal happiness when we die. This is what everyone wants, even if we have very different ideas as to what happiness might be, but we all want happiness for ourselves and those we love. This is what God has made possible through the death and resurrection of Jesus. The feast of Christmas is about the beginning of this event. Nothing could be more hopeful than this.
In the Gospel reading today, Jesus is telling us that while we get on with the ordinary things of everyday life—eating, drinking, marrying, working—we must not forget the bigger things. It is a warning to us never to become so immersed in time and the things of the world, that we forget eternity. Even though the worldly affairs are important, we must not let them distract us from the reality of God; the reality that we will die, that life and death are in his hands, and that whenever He does come for us He must find us ready.
Of course in one sense we can never be ready for God. How do you prepare to meet God? And yet this is what God has created us for and we believe it will be wonderful beyond all imagining if we have made any effort to be ready.
Jesus says that when the Son of Man comes, of two people doing the same thing, one will be taken, the other left. What does this mean? Although both people were doing the same ordinary things that we all have to do, one of them had not forgotten about God, but the other had; the one who had forgotten got left behind.
If we get totally immersed in the world, or in our families, or in our work, then we can miss what our life is about, because there is much more to our life than this. As you well know it is often when someone becomes seriously ill, or dies, that we suddenly start realizing how much we have become immersed in the world. And of course we have to get on with the day to day things of working and living, but we are being told to make sure that we also make time for God and not forget the bigger picture.
I find that a good recipe for a ‘happy’ Christmas is to keep it simple and spend some time coming up to Christmas remembering what it is about. Even go to mass once a week when you are not obliged to, or spend a few minutes in a church every few days. That way we will remember what we are celebrating. But remember that above all it is a feast of great hope, because it is a reminder that God is with us and that something great awaits us.
The Angel said to the shepherds:
Do not be afraid.
I bring you news of great joy.
Today in the town of David
a Saviour has been born for you;
He is Christ the Lord.