Preparing for eternity

Advent 2 – 2014

Mark 1:1-8

Marian Free

 Living God fill us with a sense of expectation and anticipation that we may be ready to meet you when you come again. Amen.

 I was both a Brownie and a Girl Guide, so I knew all about being prepared. Among other things ‘being prepared’ involved carrying emergency kits in our pockets. I particularly remember this because unlike the other girls in my unit, I was unable to get all the various bits and pieces into a neat compact package. My first aid kit was twice as big as anyone else’s and my pocket always bulged unattractively. It made me self-conscious, but my kit contained only the same things as everyone else and I was prepared as anyone for almost any eventuality – snakebite, broken-glass, splinters, cuts. I had everything required for a minor medical emergency. The second kit (in my case equally bulky) contained other essentials like matches and pocketknife so that we could fend for ourselves in the bush. We were prepared for anything.

You don’t have to be a Girl Guide to be prepared. While much of our lives are routine, there are some areas that require at least some preparation. If for example, we are travelling overseas we need to check that we have passports, visas, inoculations, insurance and other such necessities. If we are going to hospital or having a medical procedure, it is essential that we are prepared – that we have filled in the correct forms, fasted for the right number of hours, advised the appropriate people of the medications we are taking or the things we are allergic to. Being prepared assures us of a safe trip, and the best possible outcome of our medical treatment.

We go to a lot of effort to be prepared for upcoming events to ensure that everything runs smoothly or works out as we have hoped. Planning for aspects of our earthly existence often comes at the expense of planning for our heavenly existence. Our concern with things temporal tends to overwhelm and overtake our concern for things eternal. Our focus on the present can mean that we do not pay enough attention to the future.

What are we doing now to ensure a good outcome at the judgement? Have we put the necessary things in place to guarantee a positive experience?

John the Baptist draws our attention to the coming of Jesus, and challenges us to be prepared, to set our lives straight and to repent of those things which might be a cause for regret.

Being prepared means more than being good. It means developing a heart and mind that are focused on the things of God. It means ridding ourselves of all selfishness and malice, all discontent and pettiness. It means being deeply at peace with ourselves and with the world. It means understanding and accepting God’s love and God’s grace. It means accepting that we are pilgrims and strangers on earth and knowing that our true home is with God.

We cannot expect to have a good relationship with God in the future if we are not developing a good relationship with God in the present. We cannot expect to recognise Jesus when he comes in glory, if we have not spent time getting to know the Jesus who came in humility. We cannot expect to be content for eternity if we have not practiced contentment now.

Advent can be an unsettling time. On the one hand it is a season that gives us reassurance that Jesus will return and take us to himself. On the other hand it reminds us of our obligation to be ready. On the one hand it focuses our attention on the love that sent Jesus into the world for our salvation. On the other hand it reminds us Jesus will come again in judgement. On the one hand it echoes a warning to “be prepared”. On the other hand it is a gentle prompt not to neglect those things that will make us ready.

The question is: “how do you want to spend eternity, and what are you doing to prepare for that outcome?”

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