Jesus is Coming - Are You Ready?


Advent is all about preparing for the coming of Jesus, whether that be the celebration of his birth at Christmas, his ultimate return as judge and Lord of all the earth, or indeed the start of his ministry. That’s why John the Baptist traditionally makes it into the Advent line up, with his message, ‘I baptise you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and with fire’ (Luke 3:16). It was John’s job to get people ready for Jesus, and he did a great job. He made the national headlines as crowds flocked to be baptised and there was a palpable sense of expectation about the future. There was a real buzz in the air.

As Christmas approaches this year, I am not sure I detect that sense of expectancy: people are too weary from the events of the past two years and too wary of what might happen in the future. We have become disillusioned with castles in the air. That presents quite a challenge to me as a minister, since it is easy to caricature the Christian hope as so ethereal and other-worldly that it has little bearing on our present reality.

Yet John heralds Jesus as the coming one who will bring transformation by his baptism of Spirit and fire. According to dictionary.com, combustion takes place when ‘fuel or other material is ignited and combined with oxygen, giving off light, heat, and flame.’ Fire does not fit into any of the three standard ways of categorising substances as solids, liquids or gases: instead, fire is an ongoing chemical reaction. So fire does not just exist – it happens.

So what happens to us when Jesus comes to us and baptises us in the Holy Spirit? We cannot but be changed by that. I wonder whether some of us have maybe let things slide a bit over the past year or so, to the point that small piles of rubbish have begun to accumulate in our lives, things that don’t really belong there, and things we don’t really want, but because everything has started to feel like too much of an effort, we have lacked the energy or the motivation to deal with them. But when Jesus comes to us to ignite the flame of his Spirit, those flames burn up and consume our piles of rubbish, releasing the light and heat of his energy in our hearts. When this happens, we are no longer conditioned by our circumstances; instead we are empowered and invigorated from within.

Like John the Baptist, it is my job to point people to Jesus. Advent is the season when we are challenged to get ready for Jesus’ coming. Before his final return in glory, he still comes to us afresh by his Spirit, ready to set our hearts ablaze, if we will let him. If it feels as though the cold and dark of winter has seeped into your soul, can I urge you to ask Jesus to come into your life and kindle a new fire on the altar of your heart:

There let it for Thy glory burn
With inextinguishable blaze,
And trembling to its source return,
In humble prayer and fervent praise.

(Charles Wesley)