The Lord told John the truth: “I know your deeds, you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. A staggering judgment about a once living community. Much activity may exist, tradition and old customs, but these activities pass away and behind the background no pure life exists. “You are dead.”
The community about which this was said was a city well known in antiquity for its proverbial riches and extravagance of King Croesus. The gold mines made Sardis a wealthy city. However, wealth is no guarantee of real or genuine life. The pre-Christmas season has many of these characteristics. Life passes at a hectic pace, gold and tinsel captivate the eye and heart and empty and depleted customs grasp hold of many. But who understands the depth of the spiritual message? Whose life witnesses the true spiritual life? As Christians we are also asked to conduct ourselves more wisely than those with no understanding of the real meaning of Christmas. The Advents lights alone or the old Christmas carols don’t do anything, and pious traditions, formed by habit, portray the impression that we are alive and not dead. We must take heed, that in our families and Church another spirit prevails so that another judgment can be expressed about us. The judgment of Christ testifies always of righteous judgment. He knew when to rebuke, but also when to praise. Who looks in to the heart of humans knows that in our community, there are some who have “not soiled their clothes.” To live in genuine piousness and true faith. Today that is still the case as it was in the Church in Sardis. This is the wonder of Christ’s Church, that at all times in north, south, east and west, there are men and women filled with the joy of the Lord, which is the basis of a pure and living Church.
For me that is again always comforting and joyful that this letter from Revelation reveals a true Advents principal: strengthen one another so that the small body grows bigger. All take part so that which is dying will be strengthened. May the healthy help the sick. This alone opens the broader horizon to the anticipated joy of Christmas. Jesus wants us to be living communities, proclaiming the gospel in the midst of a world full of fear, resignation and the stench of death. The power of faith, prayer and love, should be felt by others. True Christians can forfeit some of these worldly pleasures. They see past this present day towards the goal of eternity. How much we wait for the future with our Lord Jesus is evidenced by how living our faith is and what influence God’s love has upon our conduct; how we persevere because of the reason of our hope. We do not live by what we accomplish, but by that which God, in and through us, does.
Who overcomes shall not have his name taken out of the Book of Life. God knows us!