Advent Devotion for January 1
Candle Lighter says: "I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, …"
Response: "…you were doing it to me!"
SCRIPTURE: Matthew 25:31-46
31 “But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left.
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. 36 I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’
37 “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? 39 When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’
40 “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’
41 “Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons. 42 For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink. 43 I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’
44 “Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’
45 “And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’
46 “And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life.”
SOME THOUGHTS: As we have mentioned previously, we miss the entire point of Christmas, the birth of Jesus, if we think of it as a one-day event. BC and AD should remind us of the significance. The Nativity of Christ was a day, in a way, that set earth’s time clock in motion. What do we mean? Jesus’ arrival on earth put God’s redeeming and restoration plan in action. What had been faith before (the coming of the Messiah throughout the Old Testament), now had action, in other words, now had works (the birth of the Messiah). Then with the Ascension of Christ, the earthly works of Jesus were completed. So we move back into the faith portion of earthly time, that is, we await the return of Christ at the end of the age, the action phase to come. Near the end of Jesus’ earthly presence, He clearly told the people what that action would be at the end of time. The passage you read occurred two days before He went to the cross. It is an urgent message to heed. Our culture and our world are leery of final judgments, but it is coming in Jesus’ own words. We always look for an exception, for extenuating circumstances, a second or third chance, or any kind of a delay. (E.g. a tax extension, late payment plans, interest free for one year, no money down!) We have a hard time with a final, FINAL anything. In this pericope, there is no ambiguity in regards to finality. Jesus, the King of kings, is returning and there will be judgment by the perfect, righteous, just Judge. There is no hint of “do-overs!” It is equally clear that faith and works are connected. True faith, a gift resulting from God’s grace, results in works. Jesus gives abundant examples of works resulting from faith. Faith in Christ results in transformation of the heart, which reveals itself in response to others out of love for Christ. We live in the “faith” time in which our “works” have eternal significance at the Day of Judgment. One day in time God became a child and entered into the presence of the people He created. One day yet to come, those people who have become the children of God will enter eternally into the very presence of God and the earth alarm clock will ring and we’ll wake up to a new heaven and earth.
MUSIC: Break Forth, O Beauteous Heavenly Light by Robert Shaw Chorale (YouTube)
PRAYER: O Lord, Thou knowest my great unfitness for service, my present deadness, my inability to do anything for thy glory, my distressing coldness of heart. Help me to be diffident, watchful, tender, lest I offend my blessed friend in thought and behavior; I confide in thee and lean upon thee, and need thee at all times to assist and lead me. O that all my distresses and apprehensions might prove but Christ’s school to make me fit for greater service by teaching me the great lesson of humility.
—from The Valley of Vision, p.99