Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Prepare Ye the Way

Advent is upon us. That seems to mean little to much of society around us. In the shopping malls and stores it is Christmastide, the time to vie for consumers' time and money, tempting us all with the alluring promise of happiness in getting the ''irresistible bargain.' And I confess, I fall prey. Every year I do. And yet, every year I also grow a little into Advent.

The commercial emphasis on preparing for Christmas isn't wrong. In fact, it's dead on. It's just that commerce and God's People perceive what Christmas is and how we prepare for it very differently.

In the Church we use the word 'advent' to describe our period of preparation. The word is Latin from adventus meaning 'coming' or 'arrival'. This is the Latin translation of the Greek word parousia, which is used in the Bible to refer to the Second Coming of Christ Jesus and a word Christian scholars still use in theological discourse. The season conjoins our expectation of Christ's Second Coming with our anticipation of celebrating Christ's first coming. In both cases, Christians are called upon to prepare their hearts, minds, and lives for Christ's arrival.

That begs the question whether our preparations for Christmas really look like we're preparing for Christ to come. Personally, I find the busyness of our festivities make it harder for me to make time for Jesus. Prayer time, Bible reading, contemplative mediation, true service to others easily take a back seat to party planning and gift shopping. If I'm not careful, I can easily miss the Advent of Christ when he and his family knock on my life's door and ask if there is any room here for them.

I'm pleased to tell you, though, that as powerful as temptation can be, God's grace is more powerful - more enticing even, when given our attention! In our home, in the living room, sits a small pewter wreath with three blue and one pink candles. While holiday commercials bombard me by the powerful flickering of my television and the world outside fills up with glamorous light displays, I find the simple lighting of a few candles on our family's my Advent wreath pulls me back to the parousia of my Savior.

It's a mysterious grace and a powerful promise I encounter in that flame. It is a sacramental experience of God's gentle, humble, and overwhelming presence in the midst of a blaring sensory overload. That small act calls me into a different place. The glitz passes as the tender eyes of God meet mine and my soul sees its Maker.

Deep in the flame of those eyes I feel the invitation, "I long to be with you. I'm coming. Be ready."

Prepare the way.
    Clear your schedule.
        Make room.

Your Savior is coming.
      Your God longs to be with you.