“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left.” (Matthew 25:31 – 33)
Upon reading this verses I became interested in knowing what the value of sheep versus goats in Jewish society. Both animals are domesticated, and both are used in sacrifices. But sheep are seen as the easier animal to raise and manage because they do not try to escape and they do not need as much maintenance as a goat. Hence the sheep being the favored animal over the goat in this passage.
“Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ “ (Verses 34 – 40)
I had to wonder (more & again) how these verses might relate to Advent from a Celtic view & tradition. I have not found any readily available sources of collected scripture (as we have in the RCL) that pertain to Celtic Advent. So once again, I feel like I am foraging my way. Apart from the obvious ministry that the “sheep” have performed, I take note that verse 40 says, “these who are members of my family” and have to wonder – could these be a sign of Advent involvement and theology? The importance of family and the gathering of family? We talk about the family of God, children of God, and brothers & sisters in faith. I think of older mature Christians instructing and guiding young believers. And I hear echoes of early Christianity and the preparations made for faithful worship and belief. Yes, I can see this passage fitting into Advent theology.
“Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ “ (Verses 41 – 44)
In a way, this passage is also anti-thematic to the celebration of the Reign of Christ. It seems contrary to think that the Christ who reigns was in need. Want and weakness; being alone, vulnerable, and punished and/or oppressed are not things we typically expect to happen to a Divine being. Maybe the “goats” felt the same way; anyone in those circumstances could not be a Holy and Divine Being.
“Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Verses 45 – 46)
Again, the specter of family and dependents are raised. The Lord God takes many members of humanity (well, okay, all members of humanity) under the Divine Wing. And if we ignore their need, we have ignored the call to compassion and ministry. And, in the end, ignored the Lord God. The early Christian church tended to the needs of its members, and also to the community at large. Paul urged his readers to be attentive to those around them. To be welcoming to strangers. Judaism also encouraged caring for the strangers because at one time the Jews were in need.
We may think “preparation” is doing things and accomplishing tasks; but another part of preparation is who we are. Are we compassion and caring to all that we meet? Or do we weigh the value of a person first before offering assistance? If we see the Divine spark in everyone we meet, we must honor that, attend to that, and minister to that. And if we do not see worthiness of a person, as the Lord God does, then I suspect we will not be prepared anytime soon for the coming of the Lord God. Jesus the Christ came to the world in a most unrecognizable form, and it was only those with special insight who saw the baby in the manager was actually the Divine come to earth.
These are, beloved reader, pondering and insights worth of Advent. May you prepare yourselves for what you know will come in the fullness of time. Shalom and Selah!