Advent—Are You Ready
Malachi 3: 1-4 & Luke 3: 1-6
How do we know Christmas is just around the corner? Is it because next year’s holiday brochures start coming to you through the post? Or is it because they’ve started advertising the Boxing Day and New Year sales on the TV. The consumer mentality tries to overwhelm us and demands a fever pitch of activity. Through TV and the media, advertising, we are always called to desire the next big thing and to plan and book are purchases. One event follows another, Christmas it seems is just another in a long line of annual sales opportunities. Rather than being filled with hope and joy, many wait in a state of anxiety, or cynicism, or even stress.
In all of our business, we sometimes miss the gift of just waiting an being called to take time out, to not be drawn into the things of the world. To try and step aside from the drives of our modern day and to stop and ponder the deeper things of life and of this advent season.
- We too should take time to prepare.
- We too should take time to think.
- We too should take time to pray.
We too should take time to be properly ready for the amazing, earth shattering event that was the Incarnation. How should we live out the Advent journey. Advent is a time for preparation, a time to ‘get ready’ for the momentous arrival of our Incarnate God. The emergence of John the Baptist in the Gospel of Luke was a crucial point in time in the Gospel narrative. He places these events historically by giving us four different anchor points.
- 15th year of the reign of Tiberius.
- When Pontius Pilate was governor. of Judea
- When Herod the Great was Tetrarch of Galilee
- During the priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas.
Luke discloses this hugely important moment in a time and place of recordable history and having anchored the event in historical, political and religious contexts, Luke then gives authenticity to the appearance of John the Baptist by quoting verses from the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 40:3-5).
When a king proposed to tour a part of his dominions at that time, he sent an ambassador, a courier before him to tell the people to prepare the roads. It is clear in Luke’s eyes that John is the ‘courier’ of the King. In the historical, political and religious contexts, the people needed to be prepared, to be made ready. That is John the Baptist’s task, but his preparation is not about roads and, mountain paths or rough tracks. These are metaphors – which would be well understood and very familiar to the people of that day. What is being called for here is a “preparation of the life and of the heart” This metaphor was easy for them to understand at that time for they recognised the significance of preparing for the arrival of the King. John the Baptist’s task is to open everyone to be both the necessity and the opportunity to be truly ready for the arrival of the King of kings. When you are ready, he’s saying, only then will you know what salvation really means, and when you realise what it’s all about, you will know that Christ is closer than ever before.
What steps might we take to be properly ready? How might we avoid falling into a litany of the ‘doing’ things for Advent. When God came amongst us in the person of Jesus 2000 years ago, he did not come to set in motion a list of things to do. Rather God came to show how divine love could change our lives. John the Baptist’s task was not to prepare physical roads and paths, to smooth rough tracks and make travelling easier for the people of Israel. His message was to prepare our attitude of faith, and not by the busyness of doing stuff! God came in human form to a stable in Bethlehem not to start a set of traditions that we always have to keep up. Neither did he come to set us a catalogue of impossible things to do or achieve. God came to offer us forgiveness and fullness of life. The Incarnation is about who we are and what we are and how we are, and not what we do.
We should always choose to focus on the meaning not the activity, however, this thinking about meaning won’t just happen by accident. It only happens when we deliberately make time and space to focus on the Lord. If we don’t use this preparation time well, we’ll just be swept along by the things of this modern world and miss the real meaning altogether. Don’t be so busy you don’t have time to pray, or to do your daily devotions and certainly don’t be so busy so that you don’t have time to visit a friend or a neighbour. We must remember, to be ‘ready in the heart’ for the coming of the Lord. We have to take time to prepare, to take time to look for the wonder, the light and the life that is to come. We have to be ready to see, to know, to experience how amazing this Christmas incarnation stuff really is. Take time to receive the God-given gift of life in all its redemptive fullness, or else, we might miss it!
It is all too easy consumed by our mobile phones or computers or newspapers; carried along without looking around us; consumed by our troubles, or our self-centerdness. Let’s take time to be amazed at the wonder of it all, because when we do all of that, we will know how wonderful Christmas actually is. At the heart of all the Christmas TV adverts we see, I think there is a real sadness. When we turn Christmas just into a cute message about Christmas bears or family get together’s we miss the main point. The sadness I fell is because they make Christmas too small, from confining it, trapping it, or wrapping it up in only what we can know or understand.
The truth about this Advent Season should points us to a Christmas which is mind-boggling, remarkable, world-changing, cataclysmic, unbelievable. Don’t make it too familiar, and don’t allow it to be too ordinary, or to be too small. Be amazed, but most importantly be changed. Be transformed and share this Good News. For then we will know how wonderful this season actually is.
The Advent season extends an invitation for us to watch and to wait. To wait for the coming of the King and to wait for the Christ who comes in new ways into the very messy stuff of our lives. But not just once a year, because advent invites us to wait for the God who will always shows up.
Those of you who are familiar with mobile phones, and tablets, and laptops, and desktop computers, will know about the tyranny of the “update”, When a message flashes up on your screen, “UPDATE AVAILABLE” Right in the middle of doing something important. a pop up appears which says something along the lines of “DO YOU WANT TO INSTALL THIS UPDATE NOW. OR POSTPONE TO A LATER DATE OR IGNORE IT”. Right in the middle of our busy and we think important lives, we get a message. How many of us ignore it? How many of us postpone it? How many of us shout at our computer screen? Advent tells us that in the middle of our busy time of preparing for Christmas, a message comes … an update … a different way of taking on board the Good News. An important update because it is an opportunity for a “re-start” to occur, a new beginning to initiate. Will we grumble that it’s annoying? Will we ignore it because we feel it is irrelevant to us, or will we postpone accepting it until it’s convenient to our busy schedule? Or will we pick up the message, take it on board, and perhaps even to say to God, “Install it now” please Lord. Come Lord Jesus and do it now! The Message has been given, the upgrade is available, download and install it today.
Real encouragement can be found in the celebration of Christmas if we wait and listen and approach it correctly. For it is at heart a celebration proclaiming that God has come and that God will come again for those who are looking to and waiting for him….