Post date: Nov 27, 2013 6:8:38 PM
Prepare. Prepare the way of the Lord.
In the church year, December is the season of Advent and then Christmas. Advent means “the coming”. And the watchwords during Advent are simply watch and prepare. We hear the prophetic voice of John the Baptist crying out in the wilderness, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” And “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” Matt 3:3.
Many, many outward preparations for the celebration of Christmas happen in December. Many of them are good. Some are driven purely by consumerism. But John the Baptist calls us to the bigger task of preparing our hearts, our minds, our lives for the Lord Jesus. Now, we certainly prepare to celebrate Christ’s first coming among us as the baby Jesus in Bethlehem. This is his soft and sweet coming as a new born baby and the miracle of the incarnation: God in human flesh for our salvation.
But the gospel readings in Advent also call us to prepare and watch for Christ’s second coming: his glorious return to complete the kingdom of God on earth. We know not when this will be. Many have tried to predict the date of Christ’s second coming over the last 2000 years. And, as you know, they have all been wrong.
We cannot know when Christ will fully return, but we can live lives of faith toward God and loving service to our neighbors in need. This is probably the best way to watch and prepare. This is also Christ’s “3rd Coming”: his constant presence with us in the here and now in Christian community and in care for our world and neighbors. This is the miracle of Immanuel, which means God with us. And the working of the Holy Spirit within us, within the church, makes this possible.
This year, the first Sunday of December was also the beginning of a new church year: the year of Matthew. That is to say, most of our gospel readings this year will be from Matthew, just like most of the gospel readings in the past year were from Luke. You might be interested to know that only the gospel of Matthew uses the word “church”: ekklesia in Greek: church in English. Matthew also quotes the Old Testament more than any other gospel, to show that Jesus is the fulfillment of prophecy. And you would have to say that in the Gospel of Matthew, living the life of faith is more about what one does, than what one says. In the Gospel of Matthew, living the life of faith is about bearing good fruit for the Lord. Of course this is not about earning our salvation somehow. We don’t have to try to do that. We can’t do that. Jesus does that for us through his birth, life, death and resurrection. But in the gospel of Matthew, following Jesus is more about actions than words.
So, in December we watch and prepare for the Advent of Christ. We prepare our hearts and minds and lives to welcome again, Jesus our Savior, Immanuel.
Serving Christ and neighbor with you,