Counting down the days

In the run up to Christmas, so many of us find ourselves counting down the days to the 25th. We have advent calendars (hopefully with yummy chocolates in them) and advent candles to help us with this task. During the rest of the year, we often count down the days, weeks or months until significant events: brides to the wedding, children to the summer holidays (and maybe parents until the first day of the next school term), and many of us to our birthdays, and even the weekend! Being able to mentally or literally tick off the days until an awaited event helps, whether that is in terms of planning or reminding us that it is actually getting closer, and can contribute towards the excitement and anticipation of the event.

Yet there are other events in life that we look forward to but don’t know for certain when they will happen. At the time of writing, my husband and I are awaiting the birth of our first child. It’s definitely an event we’re looking forward to and excited about but we don’t really know when the big day will be. We have a rough time period and an idea of when the medical team will intervene if baby isn’t born before then, but really it could be anytime. Before my maternity leave started, people would often ask if we were ready? Did we have all the items that the baby would need? Was the hospital bag packed? Did we feel prepared? At that point, the answer was “no”. The due date still seemed far enough away that our baby’s imminent arrival seemed unlikely.

In Matthew chapter 25, verses 1-13, Jesus tells a parable (a story with a spiritual meaning) about ten bridesmaids who were waiting for the bridegroom to arrive at the wedding. For some reason, he was delayed and they all fell asleep. When the warning of his imminent arrival was given, they awoke and found that five of them did not have enough oil to fuel their lamps so that they could light the way – they weren’t prepared. While they went to find oil, the bridegroom arrived, the wedding celebrations started and those five bridesmaids missed out. Jesus ends the parable by highlighting its meaning – we are to watch and be ready because we don’t know when He will return.

Jesus has promised, in the Bible, that He will return to take Christians to be with Him in Heaven, but He hasn’t told us when that will be. What He has told us, is that after He returns it will be too late to decide to become a Christian – that choice and the unending future in Heaven with Him that it brings, will be gone, just like the five foolish bridesmaids who were too late and missed out. The most important decision each of us can make in life is to become a Christian. Since we don’t know when the Lord Jesus’ return will be, we need to ensure that we are ready before that time comes. We don’t know when our last opportunity to become a Christian will be. If you haven’t made that decision yet, please don’t delay. Don’t be like the five foolish bridesmaids who missed out because they weren’t prepared.

Once we’d done all the shopping, packing and organising we thought (and hope) would be required to ensure we were ready to keep a baby clothed, clean and cared for, we still didn’t have any better idea of when the big day would be, but we knew we were prepared.

For those who are Christians already, we should still be awaiting His return. I have a list of things to be doing before baby arrives – no longer things that are absolutely necessary to be ready for the birth, but other things that would be nice to have sorted for the baby or organised around home etc. They are useful things that will hopefully make the first few weeks of parenthood easier. The next parable in Matthew chapter 25 (verses 14-30) speaks of servants doing business while their master is away and their faithfulness to him in service during his absence. Are you using the time you have well? Are you serving the Lord Jesus while awaiting His return?