Advent all about preparation

Curtis Shelburne

Whether we’ll have a White Christmas this year or not is anybody’s guess, but, in my “neck of the woods,” a White Monday on the Second Week of Advent is now in the bag.

I love it! Nothing in all of nature is as beautiful as snow. Add to that a church at Christmas with a fire in the fireplace, four or five well-lit trees, a warm sanctuary bedecked with garland twinkling with lights, some beautiful candles, snow gently descending on the lantern in the snow-scene on the video screen (matching what’s falling outside), hot coffee waiting in the fellowship hall, and what’s not to like?

It was the first day of our now-annual Advent devotionals. I think this is our sixth year to offer these little ten-minute moments of worship daily at 10:00 during the second and third weeks of Advent.

When I hatched the idea, I didn’t know if anyone would come; I was just sure I needed to—which surprised me. The last thing I needed during the holidays was another commitment, another group of services to design and lead.

Ah, but there’s that word: “holiday.” What I needed in the midst of busy-ness was a particular time, even if just a simple and short moment each day, to pause and worship and center on the “holy,” to be still and drink in some beauty and be reminded of what God had done and was doing—even if that congregation was just me. I figured that maybe a few other folks would appreciate the same kind of worship and quiet reminder. And they have.

The little group has grown a bit each year. Not today, though. The snow pretty much did us in, but that’s fine. I used the time to prepare for the next few days’ services.

Preparation is what Advent is about. The word means “arrival” or “coming.” Long centuries ago many Christians began to celebrate these weeks as a time of “preparation,” preparing their hearts for Christ’s coming—joyful praise for his first coming, preparation and hope for his second, and an invitation to Christ to enter our hearts every day.

In my service preparations, I chose a number of Scriptures that urge us to live always ready for His coming. Sitting in a warm study tucked in a beautiful setting, I found some great Advent meditations written by Christians in times past. Ugly times past. Two of the writers would die in Nazi prison camps. One wrote when it seemed that the world would soon end in nuclear winter.

Not one of these faithful men wrote hopefully extolling humanity’s power to work hard to build a perfect world. Instead, they point to the beauty and power and love of the God who breaks into this world’s ugliness and comes to bring a salvation we could never accomplish ourselves. They remind me that light most brightly in darkness, and that His is the only light that can truly overcome darkness.

Yes, it’s for Christ’s coming that we prepare our hearts. His Presence is the gift we need. His hope is the only genuine hope.