When I was in college, my roommate signed up to be a mentor with Big Brothers/Big Sisters. In order to become a mentor, each prospective volunteer had to fill out a background check and have an in home visit from a BB/BS case worker. So, in advance of the case worker’s visit to our place of residence, my roommate and I went about cleaning up the place. This was no small task. . . we lived in a fraternity house at the time.
To make a fraternity house in 1993 look like a good environment for a middle school aged boy is no small task. This is like making candy corn out to be a vegetable. But, we lived where we lived, and my friend had a great heart for those in need, so we grabbed a can of “carpet fresh” and got to work. A few hours later and we were ready – the room was clean, and the pathway from the front door to our room had been decluttered and sanitized. It was go time.
Just a bit before the case worker arrived, my friend ran down the hall to use the restroom. While he was gone, the caseworker arrived. I was inside our room, the caseworker on the outside, my friend in the bathroom. Got the picture? I went to open the door and welcome the caseworker into our febreezed room, and the door would not open. Would not budge. I checked the lock (unlocked); I checked the deadbolt (unbolted); yet the door remained shut. By this point, my roommate arrived back from the bathroom and joined the caseworker in the hallway. He pulled on the door and I pushed, yet it still remained securely shut. Apparently (we later learned) a screw had come loose in the door and had wedged into the door frame, preventing the door from opening. Though this was unbelievably bad timing, and though the on-site interview began with a major hiccup, all ended well as my roommate actually was APPROVED to be a big brother. I guess the carpet fresh worked after all.
I was thinking about this today as I read in Luke 12:35-40 where Jesus talks about preparing for His return to the earth:
“Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them. If he comes in the second watch, or in the third, and finds them awake, blessed are those servants! But know this, that if the master of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have left his house to be broken into. You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”
This passage reminds us that Jesus will not just have one advent . . . He will have two. At Christmastime, we celebrate the first advent (coming) of Jesus Christ – His Bethlehem birth. However, historically, the Church celebrates His first advent by looking forward to His second (His return to the earth at the end times). Amazingly, many Christians shrug their shoulders about the second coming of Christ assuming that it is a topic too confusing to understand or somehow irrelevant to their lives. This is NOT the attitude that Jesus had with His first followers. Jesus talked a lot about His second coming, and so does the entire Old Testament. Apparently God wants us all to know that Jesus will one day return to the earth, and when He does return, we (His followers) should be ready.
Imagine Jesus as the Eternal caseworker who will one day return to do a home study on your life. Knowing that He is coming back is a motivation (biblically speaking) to live a life of faith now and everyday, since we do not know the exact day of His future visitation. Knowing He is coming back ought to make us want to keep our lives fresh with spiritual fidelity and life so we do not find ourselves stuck behind a broken door of our shame when He returns.
This thought is indeed challenging and sobering. Though God asks us to follow Him and (in the words of Luke 12) “keep our lamps lit” until His return, even those who try to follow Him will still find themselves sinners at His return. The beautiful thing is that upon His return, Jesus is not looking for our perfection, but for our direction. Are our lives leaning in to Him, or away from Him? Ultimately, our acceptance at His coming is dependent upon His work and not ours, but the fellowship reunion of His return is joyous when our lives are generally characterized by a desire to follow Him. When our lives are characterized by our own selfish desires alone, we will find a broken screw in the frame at His return.
Thankfully, Jesus, in His grace, loves us and longs to be with us forever. He chooses to outfit us and involve us in His plans in this life AND in the next. Despite our sin and shortcomings, He approves us to be His little brothers and sisters. Let’s stay ready for His return.