Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Our Preparing Is Our Preparation

Advent Midweek 1
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
Luke 2:8-14

Some things need just as much effort in preparation as they do for the thing itself. If you’re going to mop the floor, you first need to move everything out of the way and then sweep the floor. If you’re going to play a sport you can’t just go out onto the field and play, you first have to practice and work hard. If you’re going to make a presentation at work it’s best not to wing it. Preparation will go a long way toward a good presentation.

Have you ever wondered why we have midweek worship services during Advent and Lent? It’s because they are seasons in the Church Year that are seasons of preparation. We don’t just up and celebrate Christmas because the date on the calendar says December 25. We prepare for our celebration of it. We don’t suddenly rejoice in the resurrection of Christ on Easter Sunday. We prepare our hearts and minds for the observance of Holy Week and the suffering and death of Christ before we celebrate the Resurrection.

We know the story. We know the events of Christ’s life. We know what He has done to accomplish our salvation. Is all this extra preparation necessary? Well, it would be easy to never show up to practice, but playing in the game would show you that you’re not ready to be there. You might know all about your sport. You might know everything you need to do. You might even have tremendous skill and be able to get by to a great degree on that. But ultimately you would find that you really don’t know what it’s all about after all. It’s in the preparation that you are formed for what you do on the field.

In our preparation during Advent we are being prepared. Our preparing is our preparation. This is shown to us in the Gospel reading. Why is it that we need to know about the birth of Jesus? Why didn’t God just have His Book, the Bible, be short and sweet? He could have simply told us that God came down to earth and suffered and died in our place. Why is it necessary to go through the details of His birth and even his Ministry? Why not go right to the heart of things?

Because in giving us these things He’s preparing us. When we are in Advent to prepare for our celebration of Christmas we are actually being prepared by God. He’s doing something a little like what the angels did for the shepherds. The angels were preparing them. Giving them the firsthand news that there was a Savior and He was for them. Could those shepherds just have waited like everyone else until Jesus died and rose and then they’d know they had a Savior? Yeah. But God doesn’t operate that way. He doesn’t just do things for us. He prepares us for them.

That way we don’t just go along thinking we know what we need to know, and isn’t that just dandy? Can you imagine a coach telling his team how excited he is to have guys like them on his team so practice isn’t necessary? The coaches I know expect the team to be there for practice and to work hard. But the athletes aren’t just preparing. They are being prepared. The coach is preparing them. He’s guiding them. He’s stirring them on. He’s giving them the big picture. He’s pointing out small but important things they might have missed otherwise. Their preparing is their preparation.

The collect for the First Sunday in Advent focuses us on this preparation: “Stir up our hearts, O Lord, to make ready the way of Your only-begotten Son, that by His coming we may be enabled to serve You with pure minds.” We ask Him to stir up our hearts. It is by His coming we are enabled to serve Him with pure minds. Our prayer is not simply that we would have the mind to prepare for the celebration of His first coming and that we would continue to prepare for His second Coming in glory. But that He would prepare us through this so that we may see and hear and know what the shepherds did: there is salvation wrapped up in that baby of Bethlehem. There is life in that suffering and death of the Suffering Servant. There is deliverance from all our sins in that Savior who loves to keep coming to us.

Your life in Christ has been one of preparation. Because in your preparing you are being prepared. In your Baptism you are living a new life, one in which you are sustained by Christ Himself in His Word. You confess your sins. You examine yourself. You see where you have fallen short of His glory and His will. You long to receive again and again the food that forgives you and sustains you. And in His Holy Supper your Lord prepares you for new and trusting life in Him by feeding You with Himself.

Just think about it—if you simply rest on “what you know” you’re content to rest in that knowledge. Now, that might sound like a good thing, but it’s really not. It’s really resting in your knowledge. You might think this is splitting hairs, but listen to what the angels were telling the shepherds: Christ has come to you. He is your Savior! It’s not about knowledge, it’s about Christ preparing our hearts and minds for His amazing work of salvation. There can never be enough preparation that takes place. We can never be prepared too much.

That’s a good thing. Because Jesus loves to give. He loves to work for you. He loves to serve you. That’s why we see that the more we sin the more we need Him. The more we live in this world and in our flesh the more we’re tempted to delight in our wants and desires. Spending time in the Word of God; meditating on your Baptism and what it means that you have new life in the midst of this sin-filled world and your Old Adam that hangs on; pondering the mystery that God, who cannot be contained, has chosen to box Himself into the packages of human flesh and bread and wine so that we know exactly how He comes to us.

These are not only the glorious things we prepare for, but are also and always the very things God uses to prepare us for eternal life with Him. Amen.


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