The Advent To-Do List

Sermon for the Second Sunday of Advent 2021

Readings: Malachi 3.1-4;   Luke 3.1-6

As we get closer and closer to Christmas, I find that there is a certain frantic energy building at the Rectory as I try to get everything ready – not just making sure that everything is in place for all of our services over the Advent and Christmas season, but also quite literally trying to get my house in order so that it’s a cozy, welcoming space for my family when they come to stay at the end of the month.

This frantic “getting ready” energy is one which I’m sure is no doubt familiar to all of you, as December is often dominated by a long list of things that need to get sorted before the 25th:

  • Buying presents
  • Sending cards
  • Putting up decorations
  • Inviting the neighbours over for seasonal drinks and minced pies
  • Getting the house ready for guests
  • Planning all the meals and putting in the orders for the food
  • Baking and cooking special treats
  • Deciding which services and events to attend
  • Planning special trips and outings
  • Making sure that work is completed in anticipation of a holiday…

And I’m sure we could all add to the list. 

But Advent calls us to a deeper sort of preparation, a preparation of the self – a sort of internal audit: what do I need to do to get myself ready to welcome Jesus? As with Lent, this is an opportunity to take up a discipline to help you with your spiritual preparations – many people spend time each day reading a chapter of an Advent Book; lighting a candle for a few minutes of prayer; doing something to bless the people around them… and even more people will be using an Advent Calendar to count down to Christmas (though if we’re honest, it’s really just a lovely daily treat to get us through a cold and dark month!) I myself am doing a bit of both – I have a lovely tea and hot chocolate Advent Calendar to give myself a bit of a mood boost each day, but I’m also reading an Advent Devotional and attempting to create a piece of art each day which reflects on what I’m reading. 

It’s not easy to carve out time for reflection during a month which is summarised for me by the exchanges I’ve already had where I’ve commiserated with other clergy over the state of our diaries with the simple phrase “well it is December.” Yet perhaps the franticness of this time of year is exactly why we need to make space for reflection and introspection. It would be so easy to get so carried away by preparations for Christmas that we don’t really spend much time with Christ

It’s traditional on the second Sunday of Advent to remember the prophets of the Old Testament who called the people of Israel to repentance and foretold the coming of the Messiah. They, too, were calling for preparation: for hearts to turn to God and away from wickedness; for the nation to embrace holiness and be ready for the coming of the Lord’s messenger; to prepare for the time of refinement and purification, and to become a pleasing offering before the Lord. 

As we remember these prophets, we too are beckoned to follow their call in preparation for the coming of Jesus – both as a child in the manger and in our hearts, and a the judge at the end of all things. 

We encounter this call reaffirmed in our Gospel this morning, with the quoted prophesy from Isaiah: 

Prepare the way of the Lord,

    make his paths straight.

Every valley shall be filled,

    and every mountain and hill shall be made low,

and the crooked shall be made straight,

    and the rough ways made smooth;

and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.

Luke 1.4-6

In other words, examine yourself for Jesus’ arrival – make things ready so that the transition to his reign will be smooth in our hearts, lives, and the world around us. 

Just as we have our December to-do list in preparation for the festival of Christmas, so too we quietly build our list of spiritual preparations in response to the call of the prophets and the conviction of the Holy Spirit: 

  • Spend more time in prayer and quiet contemplation.
  • Allow yourself to soak in the grace and love of God 
  • so that it may begin to overflow through your actions.
  • Enjoy the loving, forgiving gaze of God 
  • and ask God to help you see others in the same way.
  • Where there is brokenness in your life, seek wholeness.
  • Where there pain, seek healing.
  • Where there is offence, seek forgiveness.
  • Where there is conflict, seek peace. 
  • Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness…

I wonder, how could you draw closer to Christ in preparation for Christmas?

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