Submitted anonymously by a MCCW-Worldwide, Inc. supporter; based on Luke 3:1-6
One of the busiest months of the year is December. And why is this month so busy? It’s because we are engaged in a frantic preparation. I’m sure you’ve been through this many times before. The man of the house is outside in the freezing weather with the wind blowing up his shirttail, balancing precariously on a ladder, hanging those Christmas lights in just the right spot – he’s preparing. As men and women aggressively hit the shopping malls in a frenzy – they’re preparing. The kids are busy trying to decide what they want on their Christmas lists – they’re preparing. As houses become filled with the smell of cookies and pies, and radio stations are playing those good old nostalgic tunes about winter wonderlands and chestnuts – people are preparing. Soon it will be Christmas time.
So you can see why we call December the month of preparation. In the church, we are also in a season of preparation. It’s called “Advent.” It’s a Latin word which means “approach” or “arrival.” Advent is that time in the church year when we prepare to celebrate the first arrival of Christ at his birth in Bethlehem. But we also need to be preparing for his second arrival. It’s not too far away when Christ will return in all of his glory, with God’s trumpet call on Judgment Day.
So how do we prepare for Christ? Many people look at it as a mystery. They don’t have a clue. They may tell you they are ready for Christmas, but if you ask them if they are ready for Christ, you most likely will get a puzzled look. You might even be asked what does that mean.
Well, there is someone who teaches us how to prepare for Christ. He appears every December. It’s not Santa – it’s John the Baptist. John’s ministry took place out in the desert by the Jordan River. Verse 3 of the Gospel tells us that he went throughout the whole region of the Jordan proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. This was about the year 28 AD. As we have read before in the Bible, the wilderness and desert seem to be the ideal meeting place between God and humanity. It is there that we encounter ourselves as we truly are – vulnerable and weak. Alone and exposed, with no place to hide, we discover that our broken, sinful, suffering selves are the ones God seeks.
John knew well the transforming power of the wilderness. He could easily have gone into Jerusalem, climbed the Temple mount, and proclaimed his message of repentance for all to hear. It would have been a dangerous move. But, he wasn’t interested in building a following. His interest was in building the kingdom. So he waited for those in the cities and towns to come to him. John understood that the wilderness itself was part of the message, the transformation of the heart through repentance and forgiveness. This was the preparation that would clear the way for God’s arrival in the person of Jesus.
This wasn’t John’s idea. It was his destiny – God’s purpose for John’s life. John was talked about hundreds of years before he lived. It says in verse 4: “As it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah: A voice of one crying out in the desert, prepare the way of the Lord.” John had been called by God to prepare people for the arrival of the Messiah. He did that by teaching the people to repent. We say it, but do we know what “repent” means? It means to make a U-turn, to change direction. John was telling the people to change the direction of their lives. They were going one way, unprepared for Christ. John told them to turn their lives around and go the other way.
In John’s vision, it is not God who prepares the way – it is us. We are the ones who are to fill the valleys and level the mountains, to straighten the paths and smooth the roads so that God may come to dwell among His people. I am not suggesting that Christ will not return until we have managed to create a picture perfect world. That’s probably not going to happen. But is it possible that the delay of Christ’s return is intended to provide us with the opportunity to fashion ourselves into an Advent people, a people whose ongoing preparation for the future involves an ongoing transformation of the present? That could be quite the task considering what’s happening in this world today.
So, back to the main question, how can we prepare for Christ? Pretty simple – Repent. Identify what is sinful in your life. It takes some quiet time. Turn off the TV and the radio. Get off the internet. Take a rest from shopping and decorating. Sit and think, and identify the weaknesses in your life. What is your weakness, your sin?
After you identify your sins, take them to Christ. Without this, we’ll never successfully change our lives. Without Christ, true repentance is impossible. Confess our shortcomings to Christ. And then rejoice, because he forgives us all of our sins.
And what better way for us to enter into this extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy? It begins this Tuesday, December 8 with the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception and ends next November the 20th. The scriptural focus will be Christ’s command from Luke 6:36: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”
It’s going to be a journey that starts with a spiritual conversion – it’s making that U-turn – changing the direction of our lives. I believe God is more interested in our future than in our past. Sure, He takes sin seriously, but not necessarily as the last word. He wants us to become the best version of our selves that he wills for each of us. It’s gonna take conversion. We’re going to need that silence for examination of conscience. If we didn’t do it when our parish had Reconciliation, we might want to seriously think about setting some time aside to do it soon. Then take your sins to Christ.
But don’t stop there. During this Year of Mercy, we need to image the compassion of God in the world. We need to show our mercy through concrete acts of charity. There are seven corporal and spiritual works of Mercy which the faithful should perform. If you’re going to be into this, look them up. It all ties nicely into Advent.
So, are we ready for Christmas this year? More to the point, are we ready for Christ? Are we ready to celebrate his first coming? Are we ready to receive him when he comes again in all of his glory? The message of Advent – repent. Let Christ prepare us for the day we will see him face to face. Every day is one step closer. Don’t be caught short of time to finish your preparation.
 Kelly Koonce, “Preparing the Way,” http://www.gsaustin.org/files/resources/SermonLuke 3 1-6 2Advent.pdf (accessed November 4, 2015).
 Luke 3:4 (NAB)
 Don Schultz.
 Kelly Koonce.
 Don Schultz.
 Luke 6:36 (NAB)
“If You’re Ready for Christmas, Are You Ready for Christ?” submitted anonymously to MCCW-Worldwide, Inc.