December 2015

Post date: Nov 25, 2015 7:38:25 PM

Dear People of God,

Prepare. Prepare for winter. Prepare the way of the Lord.

By December many of us do some serious winter preparation. We may get new wiper blades for the car and perhaps put on the studded tires. We may put the tire chains in the trunk and a blanket and get a good ice scraper/snow brush to keep in the vehicle. Probably we have already covered the outside faucets and dug out the coats and hats and gloves and boots. Perhaps we have put the snow shovels and ice melt by the door. We may get the furnace checked and change the furnace filters. We don’t know when the cold and snow of winter will come, but eventually it will come. So the wise thing to do is be prepared.

In the church year, December is the season of Advent and then Christmas. Advent means “the coming: the arrival”. And the watchwords during Advent are simply watch and prepare. We hear the prophetic voice of John the Baptist proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. We hear John crying out in the wilderness, “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” Luke 3:4.

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 God’s kingdom of peace, love and joy 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. 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 workings of the Holy Spirit within us, within the church, makes this possible.

This year, the last Sunday of November was also the beginning of a new church year: the year of Luke. That is to say, most of our gospel readings this year will be from Luke just like most of the gospel readings in the past year were from Mark.

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,

Pastor Dennis