Now that we’re in the month of November it’s inevitable—if you haven’t already, you WILL soon begin to see Christmas themed advertisements. You know this because you’ve been through this portion of the calendar before. And every year it’s the same!
If you’ve ever been a part of a church that follows a version of the traditional church calendar, you’ll also know that the signs of Christmas approaching means we’re about to start a new church year! On December 1st of 2013, the church year will start over and we’ll be back in the season of Advent—that time of the year when we get to prepare ourselves to celebrate the birth of Jesus!
But it's not December 1st yet. Before we start a new church year, we have to finish the one we’re currently in. And, fittingly enough, the end of the church year deals with the end of time—the Last Day—Judgment Day—the day when Jesus will return to judge every human being to ever live.
Everyone looks forward to the times of the church year when we get to celebrate holidays like Christmas and Easter, but I don’t think I’ll ever hear anyone say, “Pastor! It’s November! I can’t wait till we get to focus our attention on Judgment Day!” Compared to church holidays like Christmas and Easter, a day to focus on Judgment Day seems like the opposite of a holiday—somber at best—if not depressing. So why is that? Why is it that time spent focusing on Judgment Day often leaves us feeling a little down?
Well, compare it to a funeral. When you go to a funeral, you don’t need to hear the pastor convict you of any specific sins like hate or lust or discontent. You’re staring the reality of sin right in the face. “The one who sins is the one who will die…(Ezekiel 18:20)” and at a funeral that truth couldn’t be more clear. At a funeral, you’re reminded that one day, you will die too. When we focus our attention on the reality of Judgment Day, we’re reminded that every sinner deserves God’s righteous judgment. And just like at a funeral, the common connection is sin—specifically our sin. So yes, the reality of Judgment Day should have a sobering effect on us because, just like a funeral, it will show us the reality of our sin.
This is why the context of the church year is soooo important. By the time we focus our attention on Judgment Day, we’ve first focused our attention on reality that our God took on flesh and became a real baby boy—Immanuel—“God with us.” We saw the reality that this God-Man grew in wisdom and stature, just like any other human man. The only difference—Immanuel did it perfectly. We saw example after example of Immanuel’s divine power as he did things only God could do—he forgave sins and performed miraculous signs (see Mark 2:1-12). We then saw this God-Man endure punishment he didn’t deserve! Why? He wanted to pay the price for the world’s sin—including those who nailed him to that piece of wood. We heard him confirm the effect this sacrifice would have when he said, “It is finished”—literally “Paid in full!” We then saw him rise from the dead, proving once and for all that his sacrifice was valid and that he has real power over death. We even heard the God-Man teach us how we should live our lives in response to the full and free forgiveness he won for us.
Now, having seen all that—we’re prepared to confront the reality of Judgment Day. Yes, it’s a day that reminds us of what our sins deserve. But when we take into account what we know Jesus has done, it’s also a day when the forgiveness he won for us will become reality in a way that's impossible to imagine! It’s the day when you will stand before your God cleansed by Immanuel’s blood! It’s the day when the God who saved you will look at you and declare you, “NOT GUILTY!” It’s the day when you will find yourself finally enjoying the perfect existence your God wants you to enjoy! No, it’s not the existence you deserve. But thanks to Jesus, it’s the existence you will experience!
Blessings on the rest of your week!