Getting Ready

We have made it! Advent begins today, and a whirl of parties, cooking, buying and trimming are at hand.

Yet, there is, to the believer, so much more to the season. The readings for the first Sunday of Advent speak to what we really need to be preparing for: a celebration of the birth of the Lord, and most especially we prepare ourselves for the second coming of Christ.

All our readings speak to this today. Isaiah speaks in 2:1-5 of our hope in the coming Kingdom, a place and time of peace and goodwill. I time when war is gone forever, when we join together in unity among all.

So too Saint Paul who reminds the Romans that the time is close at hand and we should be practicing only those things that are of God. All those things that we tend to hide under darkness of night, we should finally and forever put aside. With the “armor” of Christ, we can rise to our highest selves. We will be ready to receive our Lord. (Rom 13:11-14)

And Jesus himself reminds us himself in the gospel of Matthew to be ready, for we know not the day nor hour. (Mt 24:37-44)

Ready means of course to be ready to be judged before God. And thus Paul and Jesus say the same thing–prepare by living a blameless life, don’t put it off until tomorrow, because you may be caught unawares, and thus found not worthy before your God.

Yet, none of us is very good at taking care of business as we should. We lead lives often so busy that we need lists and reminders to just get us to where we need to be some days. We are constantly having to juggle and prioritize to get most of what we need done. All too often, the first and most expendable “should” is that time we devote to Godly things, prayer, meditation, reading, studying, and just plain living out our baptismal promises.

And to be truthful, it is wrong, I think to place all this on one event only, the second coming of Christ and the full coming of the Kingdom. There is more to it than that, I venture. It is certainly true that the early Christian community expected the return of Christ to be within their lifetimes or soon thereafter. As time passed and that did not happen, the community had to rethink that proposition.

There is dispute as to whether Jesus himself believed that the full kingdom would arrive, with him in short order. Scholars disagree. Yet, if we only focus on the “end times” as what our preparation is for, we are always sure to fail. For life does get in the way. More than two thousand years have gone by. It is quite easy to put off our spiritual responsibilities for a week or so, or a month?

We should not limit ourselves in this way of thinking. Preparing is necessary now, because we needs be prepared to receive God’s grace, love, forgiveness, and love today. At any moment our world can come crashing down around us and we will desperately need all the support and hope that God offers. We must be prepared, if we are to see that and to receive it in fullness. Otherwise our suffering will be magnified, we will feel abandoned and alone. This God does not want.

So Advent reminds us to work every day in anticipation of the Lord’s return and also the day when we shall call upon the Lord to hold us most tightly as travails assault us. We know not when that will happen, but as humans, we know it will. It is part of life.

Our priest sang to us this morning, the opening lines of Jim Croce’s song “Time in a Bottle.” You surely remember it: 

If I could save time in a bottle
The first thing that I’d like to do
Is to save every day
Till Eternity passes away
Just to spend them with you

If I could make days last forever
If words could make wishes come true
I’d save every day like a treasure and then,
Again, I would spend them with you

But there never seems to be enough time
To do the things you want to do
Once you find them
I’ve looked around enough to know
That you’re the one I want to go
Through time with

If I had a box just for wishes
And dreams that had never come true
The box would be empty
Except for the memory
Of how they were answered by you

But there never seems to be enough time
To do the things you want to do
Once you find them
I’ve looked around enough to know
That you’re the one I want to go
Through time with

Father Neal suggested that this might be Jesus’ song to us. There is never enough time in our lives, but Jesus offers us eternal time and he stands ready and waiting to go though time with us, making every wish a memory of love and unity with God.

Make this Advent special. Remember to devote time every day to prepare to receive God’s love and support in your life.

Amen.

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Tim
    Nov 28, 2010 @ 15:28:22

    Sherry, this is so rich and so true! Is it not telling how every sacred season always somehow turns our thoughts to how we spend our time?

    Not long ago, I spent time with a saintly lady I’ve admired my entire life. She’s well into her nineties, but her mind still is as a sharp and snappy as a trap. I felt like the presumptuous, yet curious, 14-year-old who would sit with her for hours at a time, tossing up my opinions so she could rectify them. (She was always patient and kind, but unapologetically direct.) So on this particular visit I remarked how crazy life’s got with all its busy-ness, and she chuckled. “That’s nothing new,” she said. “All my life people have been doing everything they can do to get out of doing what they should do. There’s always a job that needs doing that takes us from what really needs to get done. We’re not fooling anyone, least of all God.”

    Today, our pastor remarked on this same thing. She called it “serving the dominant forces in our culture,” which she said thrive by propagating “the myth of scarcity.” Referring to Black Friday, she said, “If there aren’t going to be enough flat-screen TV’s to go around, I better get myself to the store at 3 AM to make sure I get mine.” And the rush begins… But she reminded us we are consumed by faith in God’s abundance. We will have what we need. There is no reason to cheapen our time by running after things and chasing dates that steal our time and money. She called this “the tension of Advent”–living in a world driven by fear of shortages, yet placing our hope in God’s abundant grace and provision. And, realistically, while we don’t want to live entirely in the dominant culture, we can’t live entirely in the Godly one either. That would help no one but us, and would undermine our reason for doing it.

    So, yes, Advent = time = tension. It’s a necessary process we should undergo to be ready and receptive for the coming Christ!

    Thanks for such a beautifully laid out, perceptive reflection. I so love coming here!

    With blessings for a most hope-filled, profitably tense Advent!
    Tim

    Reply

    • Sherry
      Nov 29, 2010 @ 15:34:10

      Oh Tim, your words are so kind. Coming from the best in the business of scriptural reflection, I take your compliment most humbly. Your friend seems incredibly wise. She is so right, we are not changing much as the decades and centuries go by! I also agree with your pastor. We are constantly caught between our belief that everything is never-ending (like oil) and our fears that we will be left with not enough. A crazy way to live. But you are right too, we can’t live exclusively in either. We must find peace between the two. We need to realize that our resources are not infinite, yet we need hope that we as a people can grow into a more mature way of living, one that is fair and equitable for all. Thanks for your remarks Tim.

      Reply

  2. Jon
    Nov 28, 2010 @ 19:06:18

    Thanks Sherry, I used to sing that one at weddings many years ago when we were at that stage of life. Never thought about it as a Christmas meditation – must see if I can remember how to play it and let it speak to me again!

    Reply

    • Sherry
      Nov 29, 2010 @ 15:34:19

      wow Jon, how neat that must have been. I owe it all to our Priest…I certainly didn’t come to it on my own. I just adapted it to my own reflection. It is a beautiful song and one that can be used in many contexts.

      Reply

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