Are you ready?
There’s a question I get asked often this time of year:
Are you ready?
As in, are you ready for Christmas?
And what people usually mean by that question is this: have you finished your shopping? Are the decorations up? Is the party planned? Or, if they’re asking me, they may mean, is your sermon finished? Or, do you have enough communion servers and ushers and greeters, and is the music all rehearsed for the big day?
Maybe your answer is the same. Maybe there is more on your to-do list right now than there are days until Christmas. If so, I feel you. There is a lot to do this time of year: parties to plan, gifts to buy, gifts to wrap, social engagements to attend, lights to hang, stockings to stuff. But, if I may, I’d like to offer a different perspective on the same question.
Are you ready for Christmas? As in, are you ready for what God is wanting to do in your life during this season? It’s the question that Malachi was alluding to when he said, “‘I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,’ says the Lord Almighty.” (Malachi 3:1)
You see, Israel had much to do to prepare for the coming of the Messiah, and so do we. Hearts needed purifying. Habits needed replacing. Lives were in need of change. Preparing for the coming of the Lord, or the coming of Christmas, meant making room for the ways of God among them.
And we thought Christmas shopping was hard!
And yet, even though preparing our hearts for the coming of Christ may seem like a daunting task, it is far from impossible. It simply requires making some room for the movement of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
And so, if this second reading of the question, “Are you ready”, has caught you off guard, allow me to offer some practical things you can do with your family to help make ready for the true gift of this season.
1. Make plans to attend a Christmas Eve worship experience with your family. Yes, there may be other obligations on your calendar on the 24th, but Christmas isn’t complete until we’ve paused for a moment to give thanks for the presence of Christ among us as we gather for worship.
2. Read the Christmas story together with your children or grandchildren. You can find it in Luke 2 and Matthew 1 (right after the genealogy of Jesus). Luke’s version offers the story of Mary. Matthew focuses on Joseph.
3. Find a way to serve those in need. Mary’s song (Luke 1:46-55), reminds us that Christmas is the story of God’s mercy extending to the humble in our midst, including the hungry and powerless. This Friday evening, our choir is performing at Community 1st! Village in Austin, a neighborhood for the homeless. If you’ve never experienced the sharing of God’s grace with the marginalized, this is a wonderful way to capture the power of hope in the lives that need it most.
4. Attend a living nativity. Our church is hosting A Walk to the Manger this Saturday from 6-9PM, an hour-long interactive adventure that will bring the Christmas story in living color.
However you choose to prepare, I pray that you find room for the joy of Christmas in your heart this season!