Readings for the day (2nd Sunday of Advent – Sunday, December 9, 2018):
Dear friends in Christ, grace to you and peace from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ. Amen.
Are you one that is okay with waiting? Waiting in line is probably the worst. I, for one, strongly dislike standing in line. So when my brother asked if I wanted to go with him black Friday shopping, I highly debated it. But my parents were going to watch the kids, so that meant I got a free day away from the kids. So I went black Friday shopping to stand in lines and wait. Actually it wasn’t all that bad. We didn’t go until late Friday morning. So the stores weren’t in complete chaos. They were busy, but they weren’t overwhelming.
Waiting is hard. So, often in our waiting we look for things to fill our time and schedules. There’s newspapers and magazines in the waiting rooms to help pass the time. As I waited in line, I saw many on black Friday passing the time by looking at their phones. Sitting still and waiting silently is nearly impossible for us. We have to be doing something. And I wonder if maybe that is part of what leads to the chaos of this holiday season.
This time between Thanksgiving and Christmas becomes the season of hustle and bustle. It is packed full of everyone running all over to check everything off of their lists. We’ve got Christmas lists and grocery lists. Cleaning lists and decorating lists. There are so many things to do in the month of December. There’s baking to be done. And shopping and decorating and wrapping. And parties to attend and meals to prepare and homes to clean. And the list just goes on and on. We pack so much activity into one month of the year, that we almost go crazy and crash at the end. Maybe you thrive under these circumstances, and that’s great. But if this season just creates stress for you, why stress yourself out?
We think that this season between Thanksgiving and Christmas is the season of preparation. Preparation for all of the holiday festivities and we can finally rest on December 26th when Christmas is over. But actually, this season that we have begun is the season of Advent. Advent meaning the coming or arrival of something or someone important. This Advent season certainly is about preparation, but it’s not about preparing ourselves and our homes, running ourselves ragged for all of the festivities in this month. Rather, Advent is that time before Christmas to prepare ourselves mentally and spiritually for the coming of Jesus. Not just to celebrate the birth of the Christ child, but to take some time to ready ourselves for when Jesus will come to call us home to be with our Heavenly Father.
And how do we do this? How do we prepare ourselves to be with God? Let’s first look at what John the Baptist did. After Zechariah and Elizabeth had a son and named him John, the text says that “the child grew and became strong in spirit; and he was in the wilderness until the day he appeared publicly to Israel.” Throughout scripture, the “wilderness” becomes a place of solitude and silence. A place of peace and prayer. A place of waiting and preparation as God’s people listen to His voice.
Maybe you have noticed this with your children and grandchildren. They often struggle with stopping. They are so busy exploring and creatively inventing that often they forget to stop to eat, to go to the bathroom, and even to sleep. They fear they might miss something. But lay next to them for a few minutes and allow their bodies a chance to slow down to rest, and their mind will realize that they actually need this rest. The same is true when you’re an adult. We just don’t have a parent or grandparent that takes us by the hand and invites us to cuddle up next to them on the bed or a couch. Although maybe some days we wish that we could still do that. But we need that rest; that break from the chaos.
If all you are doing is filling your time preparing for all of the festivities of what lies ahead, you may very well be preparing yourself for a Christmas party that lasts a few hours. The season of Advent, however, calls us to prepare ourselves for the wedding banquet that has no end; a party where you will never have to say goodbye. And the only way we can prepare ourselves is in the same way my children ever get any rest, by taking a break from moving. By allowing ourselves a little time each day to sit in that “wilderness” with God. To talk to Him. To listen for Him. To prepare ourselves for His coming.
For when Jesus does come it will be grander than we ever hoped for. In Zechariah’s song, he describes what this wonderful moment is going to be like. Zechariah’s song is the song that he sings after the birth of his son John, the son that he thought he would never have because his wife, Elizabeth was barren. Zechariah says, “[God] has raised up a might savior for us…we [will] be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us.” And likewise about that day, the prophet Isaiah says, “Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth.” God is leveling the playing field. Anyone and everyone is welcome in this new covenant. What was only for the house of Israel, is now open for all you desire the forgiveness of their sins and life everlasting. John’s purpose and message is clear, all who are living in darkness and long for light shall receive the light of world, who is Jesus the Christ.
For now, we wait. We wait with anticipation, not only for our own celebrations of Christmas, but we also wait for the promised return of our Messiah. When He will call us home, no longer living in darkness but dwelling in the light of Christ. That’s what this season of Advent is for. For us to ready ourselves for Jesus. And as we wait, we wait in hope of His return. Amen.
© 2018 Anthony Christoffels. All rights reserved.
 Luke 1:80, NRSV
 Luke 1:69,71, NRSV
 Luke 3:5-6, NRSV