Dear People of God: In the season of Advent, it is our responsibility and joy to prepare ourselves to hear once more the message of the Angels, to go to Bethlehem and see the Son of God lying in a manger.
Bidding Prayer for Advent Festival of Lessons and Music
This coming Sunday, December 18, will be a Sunday of Advent Lessons and Carols at the 10:15 service. We will hear a variety of scripture passages that span from Adam and Eve disobeying God in the garden to the Annunciation of Christ to Joseph. In the re-telling of those stories, we will be reminded of the A to Z arc of the scripture narrative in which God is working toward the return of all his people.
In the above bidding prayer we are reminded that Advent is about preparation. We certainly get a sense of that preparation as we gear up for Christmas – buying gifts, planning for parties, baking cookies, sending out Christmas cards. We see the preparation of the season as Mary and Joseph draw steadily closer to the manger scene. And we prepare theologically for the coming of the Messiah as we count down the days to his first arrival in Bethlehem while also actively waiting for his coming again in glory.
But notice something about what this bidding prayer is asking us to prepare for. We are being asked to prepare ourselves to hear the message of the Angels. We are being asked to prepare to go to Bethlehem. We are being asked to prepare to see the Son of God lying in a manger.
What is the message of the Angels? The first message of the Angels to the shepherds, and the first message spoken to almost everyone whom Angels meet is this: Be not afraid. The world, then as now, can be a scary place, full of violence, disarray, and problems of every kind. But all these things must come to pass and no one knows the hour or the day; so remain steadfast in the Lord and be not afraid.
We are asked to prepare to go to Bethlehem. And what was Bethlehem like at this point in the story? It was a place inundated by outsiders. It was a place that couldn't offer housing for everyone who entered the city. It was a place where at least one person offered shelter to the unknown outsider. Are you prepared for, or can you help St. John's prepare for, the arrival of unknown outsiders needing assistance?
And we are asked to prepare ourselves to see the Son of God lying in a manger. For me, this means understanding that God chose to break into our world in the form of a helpless child. It means that we are required to care for this child, feed this child, educate this child, and introduce this child to the world. If we can see that child as the Son of God, how might we do those things for God in the world today? And furthermore, what would it look like to the world if we cared for God the way we cared for an infant?
The overall theme of Advent is preparation. As Christians we have a responsibility to prepare ourselves and the world for the coming of the Messiah. But as Christians, let us never forget that we make these preparations with joy.