by Liz Young
(Based on Matt 24:36-44, Ro 13:11-14)
The readings today prepare us for the coming of Christ, and the word ‘repent’ occurs several times. Repent, meaning turn around; for example, be prepared to change your thinking, your concept of God and his purpose, for you personally, and for the world. Be open to change, were my first thoughts, and then I read Bruce Gilberd’s comments on the word repent, and his words resonated. He wrote, “We spend our lives turning – this way, that way – as we walk or use the road. Even at home we turn. We turn towards or away from others.” We use the word ‘turn’, in so many different ways, and embedded is the idea of change. In the New testament we have the Greek word Metanoia – often translated as ‘repent’, but a truer meaning is ‘to turn’ – and in the New Testament, this means to turn to God. This is a graced decision – to stop heading along our self-centred way, change our direction and our purposes, and travel on as a God-centred person.
Bruce wrote, “The invitation to do this comes to every person at some time or another,” and, for many of us who are easily distracted, it is a choice we re-make several times in a lifetime: with me it seems to be once a week, as we keep walking with many others, including you lot, in and along God’s way.
Be prepared, the scout motto. It’s many years since I [Liz was a doctor] used to put out my clothes on my chair at night, to be prepared to dress quickly if an emergency call came when I was asleep. But this was a ritual that comforted me, and meant I got to Thames within thirty minutes. I’ll always be grateful for the Thames physicians who were my first response team, meaning that I was never called unnecessarily, and could sleep most nights undisturbed. Remember, being prepared is reassuring.
In this morning’s epistle Paul writes, “Let us lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armour of light.” That is, let us put aside our unnecessary baggage, such as distrust, anxiety and envy, and then, feeling lighter, we can follow Christ’s teachings.
I found today’s Gospel reading disturbing. I felt if I concentrated my thinking only on the Day of Judgement, I’d be too anxious to do anything practical and helpful to others. So, I’ll stick to concentrating on being prepared!
What else do we need to do to be prepared to follow Christ each and every day?
Noah, at the time of the Flood, was advised to have a meal prepared and to give the servants their meal at the regular time. We can all be prepared to be hospitable for any unexpected occasion; if and when that happens we can use those tins in the larder – we’ve kept for when we have floods. Only, remember to replace them as soon as practicable.
Also, I recommend reviewing the first aid kit regularly: retired nurses are the best at doing this.
At this time of year we can prepare the soil for planting in spring.
We can also prepare for pestilence, cockroaches and clothes moths – I now spray my winter clothes with fly spray as I put them away for next winter.
But as you are preparing, remember to pray. Praise God while you’re preparing, ask God for help with your preparation.
I prepare for family Christmas present giving throughout the year. Living here in Tairua, I find I buy my family presents when we’re on holiday, as that’s the only time we visit cities, and when something that speaks to me, ‘Gary’ or ’Sean’, I get it then and there. Our family all like to read. This year I’ve found good second hand book shops in Rotorua, Hamilton and Whangarei: so that now, this December, I will only have to wrap up the things in the present drawer and then look up Book Depository or ABE books to finish off the list.
As well as planning the food and presents, prepare spiritually for Christmas, our celebration of the coming of Christ and redemption – with prayer and meditation. And the greatest gift we can give is thanksgiving. When we give presents, we give what we can spare, but in giving thanks for what we’ve received, we give ourselves.