Summary: In the Gospel Jesus urges His followers to prepare for an uncertain future - but we can all be sure that one day our own lives will end, and we do not know when that will be. Jesus came to take the fear out death for those who believe in Him.
In his famous novel ‘The Power and the Glory’, Graham Greene describes, the last few hours of the life of a priest who was condemned to death during a time of religious persecution in Mexico.
At first the priest had courageously resisted, but as time went on he turned to alcohol became a drunkard, before having the chance of redemption.
Greene presents us with a scene in the condemned man's cell on the morning of his death. The priest is recalling all his lost opportunities his inner emptiness and his loneliness.
Above all, he laments his lack of vigilance and awareness of the presence of God in his life. The description of his last few moments are very moving:
"He felt an immense disappointment because he had to go to God as he thought empty-handed, with nothing at all.
He felt like someone who had just missed happiness by seconds at an appointed place. He knew that in the end, only one thing counted – to be a saint”, a child of God.
Most of us can identify with something of that feeling of disappointment, even despair, a sense that we are somehow missing out on something, or an uncomfortable fear, when think about what we might feel if we were as close to death as that priest in Graham Greene's book.
Today's readings are full of warnings about being vigilant, about not missing out on the coming of God into our lives.
In the Gospel Jesus urges His followers to prepare for an uncertain future- the only thing that is really certain is that the world will one day come to an end.
We do know when or how - that's why there is uncertainty - but we do know that it will happen. So, Jesus says, be ready to meet God at any moment.
Before you start to think all this talk about the end of the world sounds a bit far-fetched, consider this:
we may not live to see the end of the word in our own lifetime, but we can all be sure that one day our own lives will end, and we do not know when that will be.
We seriously need to be prepared for that. It is an interesting reflection on our society that the one thing about all our lives that is the most certain is the one thing that we all talk least about and are most afraid of.
Jesus came to take the fear out death for those who believe in Him. But we still need to be prepared, ready to meet God at any moment.
The Jews prayed seven times a day that the Messiah might come among them but when he came, as their brother and their saviour and as their friend, they did not recognise him.
They expected a powerful leader but instead, there appeared among them a simple human being, one of their own, someone very ordinary.
It is this humanity of Jesus that enables us to connect with Him: in Christ God meets us where we are, as we are, and shows us tangibly what He is like.
That is what we celebrate at Christmas – the Incarnation, God becoming a human being, someone just like us but without sin.
How did he enter our world at the first Christmas? Not in great majesty or power, He came as a helpless, tiny baby.
And now, we can meet Jesus in the smile of a child or in the eyes of the loneliness of an old person - He is there in the beauty of a sunset or in the power of the wind or rain.
He is there in the laughter of a teenager or in the healing touch of a nurse.
We need not look far for him. However, it is so important that we learn to recognise Him when He does appear in our midst.
God comes to you this Christmas. Do not miss His coming - Do not end up like that priest in Graham Greene's novel empty and full of regret at the end.
Do not harden your hearts by being caught up only in the material things of this world, failing to recognise Jesus in the ordinary relationships and experiences of life.
Seek to recognise him in the many different ways Jesus appears in our midst.
And as you become used to meeting with Him day by day, so you will find that you are prepared to meet Him at the end of your life as well.
An elderly woman learned that she had an inoperable, terminal illness and as a Christian she always tried to live her life as a child of the Kingdom.
In making her preparation she met with her parish priest to talk about the funeral service and they plan out the order and he asked her if there was anything else she wanted.