December 3, 2017: 1st Sun of Advent, Year C
I want to ask a question. How do you prepare for Christmas? (Allow answers) Now I have another question, How would you prepare yourself to meet Jesus? (Allow answers) Now if you did all those good things to prepare for Jesus, would that also help you prepare for Christmas? I think so, lets focus on being ready to meet Jesus and we’ll be ready for Christmas.
Hmmm, I was expecting something different. We’ve finally gotten past Thanksgiving and now we’re off and running towards Christmas and the lessons don’t have Christmas. They don’t even have John the Baptist saying “Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord!” My dad got in the car with me Friday after Thanksgiving and the radio fired up with the car’s start into an “all Christmas station.” He began to protest but then stopped and smiled and said “Yep, it’s after thanksgiving now we can have Christmas music.”
For all the complaining most folks do about Christmas starting sooner and sooner every year, we seem to be ready, willing, accepting, and even approving of the Christmas rush to start as soon as Thanksgiving plates are cleared. In fact 12 major store chains now make it a practice to start "Black Friday" shopping by staying open on Thanksgiving!
So why aren’t our assigned scripture readings telling us about Christmas. There’s no “Lo a virgin shall conceive and bear a son” or “an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and said ‘fear not.’” How do these folks picking out lessons for the first Sunday of Advent expect us to get ready for Christmas with no Christmas texts? What’s with all this “sun, moon, stars and earth distress?”
Each year the Christian church during the Advent season walks the tight rope of not just reminding our society to keep Christ in Christmas but also reminding the Christian community that the preparations of Christmas are not just for the remembrance of the Christ Child coming to earth but also the preparations of each home for the return of Christ the King.
Our lessons today remind us of preparing our hearts and minds for the day when Christ will come as the final judge over all creation. In that day and time will we have read the signs and paid attention to them? Or will we be caught totally off guard? In that day and time, which Christ describes as being immensely stressful, will we be falling into depression or drunkenness or debauchery? Or will we be raising our eyes to heaven anticipating God’s great deliverance.
I’d like to say as we enter this rather intense season of preparation for the event that has become December 25th Christians are good at lifting our heads and finding Christ in the midst of any situation. I’d like to think we’re good at not only keeping Christ in Christmas and remembering not only the Christ Child of Bethlehem but also looking forward to the day when Christ will return victorious Lord and King.
Yet, I know just watching the evening news can bump Christ out of Christmas for me. I know just juggling the schedule of December events with the number of errands and lists to be accomplished often has me distracted from the reason for the season. It’s so easy to totally forget about Christ returning as part of Christmas story. Sometimes the stress and strain of life makes us forget that Christ is even a part of Christmas all together.
Jesus point in our lessons is to live your life in such a way so that being spiritually on guard is normal, being spiritually aware is your standard behavior. It’s similar to the situation of those who regularly drive defensively- they can face the crazy Christmas shopping mall traffic confidently and competently as opposed to those who drive carelessly. In fact those regularly defensive drivers can probably avoid the worst of the situations because they are aware of the situations! It’s like the person who regularly tidies up their house each week has a lot less work to do to welcome company than the person who never cleans up unless there’s company.
Lois Blanchard Eades has a poem titled “If Jesus came to your house” and it speaks of what we need to do on a regular basis in our faith life to be aware and welcoming of Christ.
If Jesus came to your house to spend a day or two -
If He came unexpectedly, I wonder what you'd do.
Oh, I know you'd give your nicest room to such an honored Guest,
And all the food you'd serve to Him would be the very best,
And you would keep assuring Him you're glad to have him there -
That serving Him in your own home is joy beyond compare.
But when you saw Him coming, would you meet Him at the door
With arms outstretched in welcome to your heavenly Visitor?
Or would you have to change your clothes before you let Him in?
Or hide some magazines and put the Bible where they'd been?
Would you turn off the radio and hope He hadn't heard?
And wish you hadn't uttered that last, loud, hasty word?
Would you hide your worldly music and put some hymn books out?
Could you let Jesus walk right in, or would you rush about?
And I wonder - if the Savior spent a day or two with you,
Would you go right on doing the things you always do?
Would you go right on saying the things you always say?
Would life for you continue as it does from day to day?
Would your family conversation keep up its usual pace?
And would you find it hard each meal to say a table grace?
Would you sing the songs you always sing, and read the books you read,
And let Him know the things on which your mind and spirit feed?
Would you take Jesus with you everywhere you'd planned to go?
Or would you, maybe, change your plans for just a day or so?
Would you be glad to have Him meet your very closest friends?
Or would you hope they'd stay away until His visit ends?
Would you be glad to have Him stay forever on and on?
Or would you sigh with great relief when He at last was gone?
It might be interesting to know the things that you would do
If Jesus Christ in person came to spend some time with you.
Rudolf Bultmann, a famous Lutheran scholar, was once asked his opinion of when the second coming was going to happen. The Korean War was heating up the Cold War. The three super powers with nuclear weapons were in icy relationships, China was facing down Russia, who was facing down the United States, who was facing down China. Could this be the time? If so what was one to do? His response was to say that the second coming is both universal and personal.
Meaning he truly believed that Christ is coming one day to fulfill scripture and complete the end of our entire universe. However, the universal day and time for the end of it all he was not able to pin point. Yet he was able to narrow that enigmatic universal end down to a personal point. The second coming happens for each individual upon the arrival of their death. His advice to Christians was to live life prepared for the universal end that comes in our personal demise. In a way Bultmann was saying, “If we lived each day as a day preparing to meet our maker, we’d be more than ready to meet a little event like the end of the world or for that matter something as little as December 25th.”
Let us pray: Lord prepare our hearts to meet you in Christmas this year. Yet, don’t stop there, guide us and empower us so that we can be prepared to meet you unencumbered and unafraid each and every day of our lives. Amen.