Luke 3:1-14, Prepare
By The Rev. Chuck Treadwell, Rector
On the Sunday after All Saint’s this year, Bishop Doyle spoke to our congregation during the Christian Formation hour. He referenced a conversation he had recently with a friend who said that the modern Church is like the Hebrew people hurriedly gathering their things and leaving Egypt under the cover of night. Like them, the church is slowly realizing that we have all the things we needed for past captivity but not much that we need for the freedom of the future. Bishop Doyle said something like, “Here we are in the wilderness and we realize we brought all the wrong stuff.”
Advent feels much like this. It has a lot of the features of a person gathering things quickly and leaving under the cover of night. Advent is exciting, it is anticipatory, it is rushed. So often when we realize Advent is upon us we rush around and gather all the things we faintly remember were useful in the past, and as many things as we can; a calendar, a wreath, a scripture chain, a meditation booklet; and we rush out the door headlong towards Christmas. But at some point we may realize that we are almost through with Advent and brought all the wrong stuff.
Make no mistake, many of the tools listed are still helpful things. But over time, we may find that we are in full possession of the tools, but are not paying much attention to their purpose. Each of the tools for Advent point to a single goal: Preparing our hearts for the arrival of Jesus. Biblically, preparing for the arrival of Jesus has far less to do with lovely candles, beautiful music, and count down calendars than it does with taking a stark look inside to identify all the paths we are currently on that lead us away from Jesus.
Luke tells us that John the Baptist was out in the wilderness shouting, “Prepare the way of the Lord!” When he finally got an audience he did not coach them through 28 days of preparation.
He called them instead a “brood of vipers”. He said what was coming was wrath, not a warm, cozy Christmas. He shouted for them to let go of their old habits and repent, and they better get on with it.
The repentance he called for was very concrete. If you have two coats share with the one who has none. The same is true if you have two pair of pants. Let go of everything in your life that is not of God. Most of the things you are clinging to are tools of captivity, and the one who is coming is offering radical freedom.
So get ready.
And you don’t have all day.