December 20, 2011

Are you ready?

Originally published in the Union Springs Herald on December 7, 2011.

Advent is a season of preparation. As we celebrate the coming of Christ as the child of Mary, we also prepare ourselves for the day when he will come again. So, the Advent season is not merely about waiting passively for something to happen to us; it is an active preparation for the coming of God in Christ. This invites the question: what are we doing to prepare ourselves to receive the Christ?

We can find some help with this question in the familiar story of Mary. You remember the story; don't you? Mary was a young girl, engaged to a young man named Joseph. She was from a small and unimportant town called Nazareth. One day she was visited by a heavenly messenger named Gabriel, and his message was exceptional, strange, and even somewhat scary. The messenger told Mary that she would be the mother of a very unique child. Indeed, his conception and birth would be nothing short of miraculous. And God would make him a great king, and he will be called the Son of the Most High.

With all the joy and celebration that surrounds the Christmas story, it is easy to forget what a shocking and scary message this would have been for Mary.  We seldom realize that she was probably only 13 or 14 years old, the typical age for a Jewish girl to be married. And we often forget that, in first century Jewish world, becoming pregnant outside of marriage was a crime punishable by death. Even if her life was spared, she would live with the shameful looks and hurtful jokes of those who lived in Nazareth. Here she was, barely an adolescent, and this messenger from God brought news that could endanger her life and result in public shame.

In light of these things, Mary's response to Gabriel is nothing short of stunning. What did she say? Only this, "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word." Even though it would be costly for her, Mary was already actively preparing for the coming of Christ. And she made preparation by offering herself completely and totally to God for his plan and his purposes.

With that in mind, we are left with the question of whether we are making ready to receive Christ. What are we doing to prepare for his coming? We would be wise to follow Mary's example and give ourselves fully to God and to his purposes. Allow me to invite you to do just that and to use Mary's prayer as a tool. Every day between now and Christmas, will you pray Mary's prayer: "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word." When you rise in the morning and before you go to bed at night, pray these words to God. Perhaps, if we do this, we will be increasingly ready to see God at work in a variety of ways, and perhaps we will be more ready to be involved in that work. Imagine what it might be like if our whole community prayed this prayer together throughout the month of December. Imagine what God might do through us and in this place. Just imagine. Are you ready?

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