First Sunday of Advent
A young clergyman was preaching his first sermon on the first Sunday of Advent and he was very nervous. He didn't believe in having a written sermon or notes. He believed the Holy
Spirit would guide him. So he started with the Advent text for the week: "Be Prepared! Behold, I come!" Suddenly his mind went blank. So he started again. "Be Prepared! Behold, I come!"
Still his frightened brain just didn't seem to function. So he leaned over the pulpit for effect and started once more: "Be prepared! Behold, I come!" At that moment the old pulpit gave
way and collapsed. He tumbled over into the lap of an older woman. He got up and, red-faced, he stammered, "Oh, I'm so sorry! Please, forgive me!" The woman wasn't upset in the least and
replied, "That's perfectly all right. After all, you warned me three times."
Today's lessons speak of being ready, being prepared. During this season of 4 Sundays in Advent the lessons focus on the second coming, since, of course, Christ has already come once.
But these lessons aren't just about the end time: that is, be ready, be prepared in case the Lord comes tonight and the world ends. Of course, for any one of us, our own personal
world could come to and end if we died tonight. But theses lessons are not only about end times or the second coming; the lessons are for us here and now, living day to day, day after
day, tomorrow after tomorrow. Being ready, being prepared has to do with living now, in this moment.
Jesus didn't come just so we could spend our lives preparing for the end time. He came so that we could know how to live life more abundantly. He came to teach us how to do that. He
came to teach us how to live in the now and experience the wonder and blessings of God now. He wanted us to live our lives in the moment, not in the past, not in the future. If we don't
live fully in the now moment, we are not ready for, not prepared for what comes next. If we're only thinking about what comes next, we're not doing what we need to be doing now.
This season of Advent gets totally lost in the frantic preparations for Christmas Day, as though Christmas were only a day. It's focused on decorations and presents and parties. It
becomes so chaotic that you even hear folks say, "I'll be glad when Christmas is over!" Good grief! The day to celebrate Christmas hasn't even come yet!
Being prepared, being ready for Christmas isn't just about having all the decorations done, all the presents bought and wrapped, all the cookies and goodies made, all the food
purchased for Christmas Eve or Christmas Day dinner.
The kind of preparation and being ready Jesus is trying to teach us about is what makes all the seeming chaos worth the time and effort. Being ready in your heart, prepared in your
emotions, even to be prepared psychologically. Being ready, being prepared so that whatever you do is done with joy in your heart, so that experience a calm mind, rather than being in a
frantic state of mind.
Here's how you can help prepare your heart and mind and soul for Christmas so that you'll get the full benefit and meaning and joy and peace from it.
These are in no special order. We've already started receiving Christmas cards. Each day, take one of the ones that speak about the lasting beauty and joy and peace of Christmas and
read it. If you're part of a couple, try to read it when you're together at meal time. If you have children at home, if you can possibly read it as a family as part of grace before a
meal, that would be wonderful. And if you can't, and you have small children, read it to them as part of their bedtime prayers. Be sure to say who the person is that sent such a
wonderful Christmas greeting.
Focus each day on doing something for someone else. Be spontaneous in your kindness toward others. Practice random acts of kindness. A few years ago I was visiting my cousins in
California and I was crossing the Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco. As I came to the toll booth, having waited in line behind a few cars, the toll booth collector said, "I'm
supposed to tell you 'Merry Christmas.' The folks in the car before you paid your toll." I was surprised and happy and just elated at such a wonderful anonymous gesture. It made me feel
so good that I did it myself for several months until I got the E-Z pass and no longer go through the part why you pay a cash toll. But I was excited the times I did it. I'd look in my
rear view mirror to see who was in the car and imagine their surprise when the toll booth collector would tell them. And maybe they did it for other folks as well. So, that one gesture
on the part of the first car that did it for me, kept on spreading to others; one kind gesture multiplying over and over.
I recently saw a church outdoor sign that we had up last year. "Be the change you want to see in the world." Every day try to do something to make the world a better place.
Be faithful to what you know Jesus expects of you. Respect the belief of others. Respect children. Don't ever fail to praise them for their honest efforts. No matter how small. And
thank them, too.
If you're driving, be the person who leaves a bit of space between cars and lets someone into line, rather than purposely quickly stepping on the gas to close the space so the car
CAN'T get in. If you're driving and another driver does something stupid, pray for the driver rather than curse the person so they won't hurt themselves or someone else.
The list is really endless in what you can do to do a good turn daily. They're all things that will help your state of mind and heart to be ready to meet any challenge that comes your
way during the day. Every good act, every good deed, every good thought, does not end with your having done it. It multiplies and continues to multiply and only God knows just how far
around the world your one act of compassion, your one act of kindness, your one act of humility, your one act of love will travel.
You're not only planting the seeds of peace and joy and calm in your own heart by these sorts of things, but you will plant those seeds in the world as well.
Be ready. Be prepared. Enjoy the preparations. Rejoice in why you are even doing all these things. Advent means "coming." Christmas hasn't come yet this year, but Jesus has already
come and is living in your heart. And through the power of the ever present Holy Spirit, Jesus' teachings will come alive in you, and you will experience life more fully, more abundantly
because you're ready, prepared through all the good things you do daily.
You will rejoice in your family and friends and all your relationships. And you will rejoice in your relationship with Jesus. You'll look forward to being at worship and you will want
friends and family to share that with you. The good news of Christ is too good to keep to yourself.