I hate that one of my pastors had shoulder surgery but that gives me an opportunity to preach this coming Sunday – the first Sunday in Advent, the beginning of a new Christian year! Advent season is one of my favorites, but not because of Christmas. The season is actually less about Jesus’ first coming as it is a preparation for His second advent. Sure, it can be adapted to prepare us for the holidays and the stress of having everything purchased and prepared, but Advent season is really about Judgment Day, not Christmas Day.
I’m a big fan of The Chronicles of Narnia movies, and my favorite is the first one, “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.” The books by C.S. Lewis were formative in my faith and especially my understanding of God’s nature. Aslan is one, if not the main character in the series. It doesn’t take much imagination to view this lion as Jesus, the Lion of Judah. He is at once ferocious and frightening, but also one who in great strength lays down his very life. Aslan is no ordinary pussycat. Aslan is to be worshipped and feared. Aslan is loyal, kind, and caring. The word that keeps coming to mind is “strength.” He exudes strength.
I like singing “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” but it’s also good to know that Jesus-Meek-And-Mild is Jesus-the-Christ. He’s more like William Wallace in Braveheart than Fred Rogers in “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” I take great comfort in Jesus who pardons and is lenient, but I also serve a Risen Lord whose strength is a bewildering mixture of humility and power.
I literally don’t want to throw the Baby (Christ Child) out with the bath water, but it’s Advent season that corrects the soft-serve Jesus that captures the rest of the Christian year’s attention. Jesus-the-Judge is a Lord who inspires me to service, not out of fear, but out of a desire to pay homage to the One who is worthy.
Advent makes me think about the end of life and its measure. In The Imitation of Christ,St. Thomas á Kempis wrote: “When we stand before the Judge Eternal, he will not ask what we said but what we did.” Advent-living forces me to think about the eternal consequences of my actions. Christmas-living lets me live in a fantasy world until January when the credit card bills come due.
The ultimate Advent message is to get ready for Judgment Day. Watch your actions, cram for your finals, love God and neighbor, serve the poor, give away earthly treasures to gain heavenly ones, be good stewards of planet earth, and love, love, love! There’s more, of course, but that’s enough for today and tomorrow ad infinitum.
Someone summed it up well when they asked these questions: “When you stand at the Pearly Gates, would you rather be told you believed too much or you believed too little? When you stand at the Pearly Gates, would you rather be told you cared too much or you cared too little? When you stand at the Pearly Gates, would you rather be told you tried too hard or you didn’t try hard enough? When you stand at the Pearly Gates, would you rather be told you were too forgiving or you were too judgmental? When you stand at the Pearly Gates, would you rather be told, “Well done, thou hyper-hopeful and risk-taking servant,” or “Well done, thou sober and play-it-safe servant”?
Judgment Day is coming. Ready?