Friday, December 2, 2011

Are You Ready?


Now that the Thanksgiving Day Retail sales experiment appears to be a success and Black Friday and Cyber Monday are past, we learn Christmas sales are up a LOT over last year at this time. So I guess we’re all set for Christmas. Or at least MORE all set than we were last year at this time? What about you?

”Are you ready for Christmas? My "ready" lesson occurred the year I wrote our Sunday School Christmas play. Weeks of rehearsals and 150 children later, this one night stand was attended by 600 loving parents, friends and staff. There would be lines rehearsed and parts forgotten. Dancers were ready. Cast members sat in the school auditorium, sparkle eyed in anticipation of coming forward as part of the act. Everyone was ready, from pre-service carolers who looked like they’d stepped right out of Charles Dickens to the last tiny preschool choir. The time had come to join the celebration of the biggest birthday party in the world. Music began and the huge stage curtain parted. In that moment it hit all of us.

This was for real. Christmas was here. This was the night. Ready or not, Here He Comes! By Act III there were few dry eyes in the house. Everyone left with a birthday balloon and a piece of the huge Birthday Boy's cake, fresh from Kruta’s bakery in Collinsville. Young and old seemed to understand this party was for the real birth of a real boy who would grow up to really die for our sins. The Spirit of the Christ Child had touched the hearts of those open to Him. Ever since then, when Christmas comes, I remember it’s for real, just like the night of the play.

You're ready or you're not....but He Comes. I'm invited to the party and so are you. I hope you'll say yes. Ready or not, here He comes. The Virgin Mary had nine months to get ready for Christmas. Once the initial shock became reality, Mary pondered the incredible wonder of the Divine conception of her Son. Martin Luther, the 16th Century reformer, reflecting on Mary's situation, said the Virgin birth appeared to him a trivial miracle compared to the Virgin's faith. It might help our preparation to ponder the thought from Luther that it was not such a big deal for God to make a spectacular star, but rather that the Lord of the universe should care enough about ordinary people like you and me to take our flesh and share our woes. When we don't find ourselves naturally caring for each other, why should God humble Himself to lie in a feed box and hang on a cross? The time had come for the promise of God to be fulfilled. God was ready to send a Savior into the world.

It may not take us nine months to prepare for Christmas, but where to begin? How about with the message of a man who wore rawhide and ate honey and locusts in the wilderness? John the Baptist called people to repent to prepare the way for the Lord. Repentance gets us ready. It shows what needs to BE readied. Feel that grudge? Any unconfessed sin lurking in the corners of your heart? The tree may be up, the shopping finished, but you're not ready for Christmas. We need the medicine of the Christmas story, the Good News to clean our sin-sick hearts. In the words of Luther's Christmas hymn, "Ah dearest Jesus, Holy Child, make Thee a bed soft undefiled; within my heart that it may be, a quiet chamber kept for thee."

Prepare the way. Whose way? Yours? Mine? His? “Prepare” reminders surround us; days left, wish lists and the Tree of Lights. Lights remind us Jesus came to light up a dark world. He was the LIGHT the world could not put out, and still cannot. We deck the halls, get all charged up, literally. One store delivered its holiday catalogue three weeks before Halloween to help us get ready. We decide between the electric motor driven whatchmacallit, the mechanical thingamajig or the fourseat - you name it. Once we have it, we think we're ready. But are we?

A tender "are you ready" moment occurred when our Jennifer was six. I asked what she would give Baby Jesus. Without hesitation she said, "I'll give Him my violin." We decided Baby Jesus could not use the violin, but she could play it with the talent God gave her. That inspired the first Musical Offerings at church, continued for decades, when children offer their musical gifts back to the Giver on Christmas Eve. What will you give the Christ Child this Christmas? Mary was ready. John the Baptist was ready. All it takes is a place for the Christ Child to lay, within our hearts, in a manger of faith. Are you ready?" This Advent season is a perfect time to ask God to ready us. Welcome His Light into your bits of dark….at midweek services, through music, personal devotions…and see how ready you’ll be to celebrate Christmas!

No comments: