There are two kinds of people in this world – those who are ready, and those who are not. For some folks, being ready is an obsession. Some have their Christmas shopping done in July, their Christmas cookies in the freezer by Thanksgiving, their supper menu planned out two weeks in advance. On the other end of the scale are those who do their Christmas shopping on Christmas Eve, pick up some cookies from the bakery on the way home and then ask, “What should we have for supper?” On your deathbed, it really won’t matter whether you were one of those “ready” people or not.
But there is a readiness which you can’t do without. Jesus said: “So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect Him.” Some, by a God-given faith in Jesus as their Savior, are ready at any time. Some, bound in the chains of unrepented sin and attitudinal unbelief, are frighteningly unprepared.
The great Advent preacher, John the Baptist, called for “fruit in keeping with repentance.” Luther liked to say, “You don’t have to go out to the garden and lecture your pear tree to have pears.” Truly repentant hearts want to do the right thing – not to earn forgiveness – but out of gratitude for it.
The issue is not whether you have committed some sin so great the blood of Jesus cannot cover it. He has paid your bill in full! The issue is whether there is a broken and contrite heart, and a simple faith in Christ’s pardon.
Who can rejoice in sin forgiven, a burden lifted, if there is no admission of sin or genuine guilt in the first place? Our problems are not character flaws, bad habits or behavior patterns. They are sins! These wild creatures within us cannot be tamed or turned into docile house pets. In The Small Catechism, Luther reminds us that our Old Adam is to be drowned by daily contrition and repentance, that each day a new person arises to live the Christian life.
Repentance is not renovation. The Old Adam cannot be renovated. Repentance is death – the daily dying to sin and the daily rising to a new life in Christ. Listen! Jesus loves you more than you love yourself. He gave up His life to prove it. The fruits of repentance may vary. Sin is messy. Some things long broken cannot be restored in this life. Others can be fixed and a penitent heart will look to mend what is broken.
Jesus wants to embrace every poor sinner who stands in the rubble of his own failure. But there is no such thing as an impenitent Christian. It is a contradiction in terms to claim to be a Christian and yet to stubbornly, defiantly live in sin. In the first of his 95 Theses, Luther said that the entire life of a Christian is to be one of repentance. To see our sin for what it is, and our Savior for who He is – is to be ready for the coming of the King. For there are two kinds of people in this world – those who are ready, and those who are not. Ready or not, He who came is coming again. Soon.