Sunday, December 4, 2011


The season of Advent encompasses the past, our present and future. It is enveloped in expectancy, preparation and hope.

The Past: It’s as though we are members of Mary’s extended family, following her through the last four weeks of her pregnancy. There’s a sense of anticipation, a need to prepare, to get ready…to prepare head and heart.

The Present: Our Messiah arrived two thousand years ago, but Emanuel (“God with us”) is very much a present tense Savior - to save us from the broken parts of ourselves and the warped places of this planet, to save us for a relationship with our Creator.

The Future: As we assert during the Eucharist, “Christ will come again.” The things mentioned above are a work in progress - unfinished business - but a time will come when the brokenness is gone, when all is whole and perfect. The ultimate Christian hope. Yes, we are saved - saved for eternity!

Advent is a time to reflect on God’s global yet personal intervention that began with Mary and Joseph, to reflect on his intentions for and involvement in our lives today, to reflect on the wholeness of “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
(Matthew 6:10, NIV)

My Christmas Bible study begins with John the Baptist’s proclamation: “Change your life. God’s Kingdom is here.” (Matthew 3:2, The Message) Yes, that's a challenge, but it is very, very good news as well!

The Nativity ~ Gerard van Honthorst ~ 1622

Lord, I’m like a kid at Christmas. I want an Advent filled with Alleluias and angels “singing sweetly o’er the plain.” But I always encounter a few dark days. Stress at work. Family drama. What happened to the joy?

Maybe it’s part of the Advent protocol: We have to face the darkness before we can appreciate the Light of the World.
(Ann Weems, Kneeling in Bethlehem)

Indeed, Mark’s Gospel begins with John the Baptist, a voice crying in our wilderness:

“Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.” And so John came…preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. (Mark 1:3-4)

We have to face our flaws and failings before Christmas can come...face our need for a Savior before he can be born in our hearts. I heard a great sermon line: You have to wash your hands before you can hold the baby. *

So, Father, I wash my hands, confess my sin, profess my need of a Savior - and with gratitude and joy - I await the baby’s birth! Amen.

* - The Rev. Dr. Scott Black Johnston, Trinity Presbyterian Church, Atlanta, GA,