Read Luke 3:1-14
How do you prepare for Christmas? Does your preparation start with waiting in the long lines at the break of dawn; for those sought-after black Friday sales? Maybe it begins with decorating your home for Christmas, both inside and out. Perhaps it starts when the radio stations begin playing Christmas songs. All of these festive options have found their place in our western celebration.
But, this year, I challenge you to get in touch with your rebellious side. And, believe it or not, such a rebellion can be found in the liturgy of the church! Let’s give our attention during the four weeks before Christmas to observing Advent, a season of preparation and expectation.
I know this sounds familiar to you. “We do this every year,” you might say. But for me, the pull of Hallmark and Macy’s seems to be strong and often overpower the voices of our faith who cry out: “prepare the way of the Lord; make his path straight!” (Isaiah 40:3-5 and Luke 3:4-6). So, how will we prepare the way of the Lord and thus prepare to celebrate Christ’s birth once Christmas day final does arrive?
In Luke 3, John the Baptist calls the people of Palestine to prepare for the Lord’s coming with repentance. Repentance – really? “That sure sounds like a downer,” you might say. “Christmas is supposed to be a time of celebration.” And you are right. But in order to celebrate what Christ’s advent (his first and second coming) means, we need to be reminded of what Christ is rescuing us from. And we need to repent from the sins that so easily entangle us and distract us from God.
So advent begins with a call for God’s people, in the words of John, to produce fruit in keeping with repentance. The crowd responds to John’s call with a question: “What should we do, then?”
John’s answer: “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” Then the businessmen and bankers of John’s day come forward, and they, too, ask, “What should we do?” John answers, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.” The military powers come forward and they, too, ask, “And we, what are we to do?” John replies, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats and false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.” (Luke 3:11 - 14)
What should we be doing to prepare for God to make his home with us? The answer remains the same. Give to those in need. Feed the hungry. Clothe the homeless. Do not exploit others. Be satisfied with what you have. Is there a more counter-cultural statement than this at this most-shopped season of the year?
During the first week of advent, we focus on hope. Where does our hope come from? How do we live in hope? Our guest writers this week are our mission partners who share in proclaiming the Kingdom of God in every corner of the world. Listen to their stories of hope. Perhaps you will hear a common thread – one that resembles the fruit of repentance that John called for so many years ago.