I once heard a story or fable that described Heaven and Hell. Both of which were nearly identical. Hell was described as a giant lavish feast. All of those who were in hell were seated at the banquet tables, but did not have any arms or feet. Only their torso remained. Heaven was described similarly. No one had arms and legs, only a head and torso. In hell everyone wanted to dine on this lavish meal but couldn’t. They tried and tried various ways to reach the food and to eat it. To take a drink. No one could. They grew hungrier and hungrier. More desperate, and more impatient with each passing eternal moment. In heaven though, all that were there were dining on this meal. They used their fork and spoon with their teeth, turned and fed their neighbor, who likewise did the same to them. That is the difference between Heaven and Hell, one is about love of neighbor and obedience, the other is about themselves.
For every one of us, our eternal destination looms closer and closer with each passing moment. The end is near indeed. Paul tells us in Romans 13 “It is now the hour for you to wake from sleep, for our salvation is closer than when we first accepted the faith. The night is far spent; the day draws near. Let us cast off deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light”. In our day in age, our society has seemed to become a society of “universalists”. With the exception of a very small minority of offenders, everyone seems to think that we are all going to end up in Heaven. We are so full of ourselves and presumptive of our salvation that we can’t imagine not having the right to spend eternity in Heaven. But spending an eternity in Heaven is hardly our right, but rather a gift from God. It seems rather selfish to think that we are owed Heaven. If we really think that we are owed Heaven then we probably aren’t going to end up there are we?
So yes, we prepare for Jesus this Advent season. We prepare for his birth and everyone is going to celebrate it, remarkably even those who don’t believe in him celebrate his birthday. But how are we preparing our lives to meet Jesus because we will someday. I was reading from Isaiah this morning “Since this people draws near with words only and honors me with their lips alone, through though their hearts are far from me, And their reverence for me has become routine observance of the precepts of men, Therefore I will again deal with this people in surprising and wondrous fashion…Woe to those who would hide their plans too deep for the Lord! Who work in the dark, saying, Who sees us or knows us and what we are doing?”
Are we saying one thing and doing another? Are we thinking that we can get away with that without God knowing that? Hardly! Shouldn’t we welcome and look forward to Jesus at every moment of our lives as we look forward to Christmas? Shouldn’t every moment of our live be an advent for the coming of the day when we meet Jesus? I pretend to not be better than any of you when I say this as I recognize that I am in as much need of Christ forgiveness as much as the rest of us. There are many of you that are more than capable than myself to share Jesus with everyone.
This world that we live in is a wilderness ruled by sin and selfishness. For us Christians we need to be like John the Baptist and prepare the way of the Lord. Saint Augustine says “that John was the voice, but the Lord was the word who lives for ever. Take away the word, the meaning, and what is the voice? Where there is no understanding, there is only a meaningless sound.” The voice that cries out in the wilderness is the voice that breaks the silence.
Today the silence of the wilderness of our world is deafening. Our lives are so busy and full that people don’t stop and make time for Jesus. We are so selfish with our lives that we forget to share our time with the Lord in prayer and worship. We are so selfish with our time we forget to share the love and forgiveness of Jesus with others and to help bring them to Jesus. The silence of the wilderness that is this world is so deafening that our ears fail to hear God and those who God brings to us with His message. Are you going to be the one breaking the silence of this wilderness world with the Love of Jesus? Are you going to celebrate and prepare the way of the Lord and make straight your paths everyday? Because everyday we live and breath Jesus is closer than the previous. We just don’t want to be so selfish with our lives that we end up staring at the fork wondering how to eat.