is a season of anxious waiting, thoughtful remembering and even celebrating.
Just this morning I was anxiously awaiting the commencement for Reggie Moore at
Bramlage Coliseum. I remembered those many days over the past few years when a frustrated
Reggie would plop down in my office, and say, ‘Pastor, secondary education,
what was I thinking?” Today we the crowd celebrated in hearing our Music
Director, Kolby Van Camp, sing our national anthem and close with the KSU alma
mater, as the President of the Alumni Association informed them, they all now
have ‘purple blood.’
this week a grateful nation remembered the ‘day in infamy’ on December 7, 1941;
and the Greatest Generation for bringing us through tyranny to victory. While a
grateful nation also celebrated a member of that greatest generation, as we
mourned the passing of President George H.W. Bush. Anxiety, to all we say “well
done good and faithful servants. Remembrance, reflection, celebration are all a
part of life and our Advent Season. Knowing it leads us to our Lord’s Nativity
and salvation for generations past and generations to come. Advent brings us
closure and hope. And yes, to Christmas time!
the Christmas season is a time…for cluttering. Be honest, most us know
that our lives, our homes, our schedules, our world is already over stuffed and
here we bring out more…stuff. When we begin to decorate, boxes are pulled
out from the attic, the basement or garage, a closet or maybe from all these
places. As we begin to unpack the decorations, they bring out with
them so many memories. But in order to find a place to put them, we have
to rearrange most of the things that are already out in our homes during the
year. We already have things filling the shelves, the tabletops, and the
cabinets, and here comes more. Christmas is the season for clutter. Advent is
the season to unclutter.
doesn't stop for Christmas, it relishes busyness. We still have to work
or keep appointments or do those things that keep our lives running--while finding
more time for friends and family. Then there is shopping. If our calendars, homes
and budgets are not parables enough of how Christmas is a time for cluttering,
how about our waistlines? Even the best-intended eater is challenged with
all the sweets and goodies that are offered during the holidays. As the rush
and hurry of preparing for Christmas begins to crowd into already over-filled
lives, we hear with new meaning the words of the prophet Malachi, "But who
can endure the day of his coming?" Of course, Malachi's question was
one of far greater magnitude, of standing before the judgment of God, but his
warning speaks to us as we approach another Christmas season.
don't know how much the wise men paid for their gifts, or how much time or
effort was invested by the shepherds, but we know that both came for one reason:
to worship and adore the child born at Bethlehem. They were not
distracted by clutter in their lives. Out of all the stars that filled
the sky, the wise men stayed focused on one. The shepherds even set aside
their sheep… to go see of what the angels told them. Faith, hope and love…not
love John the Baptist. To me he was one of the most colorful
characters in all of history. Clad in a camel hair, his diet consisted of
locust and wild honey. He ranted and raved while challenging all earthy
authority. JB didn’t know what was PC...only JC. He went out into the wilderness,
away from the city and crowds, to attract even a greater crowd. He seemed
determined to fail. Instead, all these things we think his ‘poor choices’
today, Matthew says that people from all over were flocking to hear John’s
message of repentance.
John's word in the
wilderness came from the prophet Isaiah spoken at the time Israel was in exile
in Babylon. Separating God's people from their home was a wilderness, that
appeared impossible for them to deal with. The promise in Isaiah 40, with
the words John uses, is that comfort comes to God's people, in the wilderness.
A way prepared for the Lord.
before the vision of returning home could be fulfilled for those who first
heard Isaiah's words, it would take the efforts of Divine guidance and the blessings
of God. And the promise of what this new way will open is not limited to
the people in exile--or in the case of the promise from John--to those who hear
his call but to all flesh. There will be new power and hope that
comes from God's presence in our lives and in our world. In these days
leading up to Christmas may we see beyond the clutter of living to the hope
that was born so many years ago in Bethlehem. We, too, can find the way
for God to be in our days and our hearts--to see the Divine in our ordinary.
Augustine was right when he prayed to God that our hearts were restless until
they find rest in God. So how can we approach such a holy season as
Christmas and miss the holy? Where does all this clutter come from?
How do our days get so filled? Could it be a failure on our part to
prioritize that which should take precedent in our lives? Look at your
calendar for the days between now and Christmas. Where have you set aside
time for worship, for prayer, for some quiet time? Advent is the season
of ‘uncluttering’; a major part of uncluttering is making sure there is time
for God to touch our lives and shape our days. To prepare the way of the Lord
means to make choices. We must decide what we are to focus our lives and
days on. We must decide what we will keep. How we will unclutter our
unclutter means not just moving from one crisis to another but moving with a
sense of purpose. The Christmas carol says, "O come, let us adore
him" and not "O come, let us ignore him." It means
that the Lord reigns in our lives. That doesn't just ‘happen’ with
Christmas. This needs to be intentional on our part. The rush and
the push of the holidays make it even more difficult--to unclutter our lives,
to focus our thinking, to be intentional--as John the Baptizer’s challenge.
in using the words of Isaiah, challenges us that every valley shall be filled
and every mountain brought low. Those valleys or low places in our lives,
such as worry or grief or doubt, can be filled with an awareness of the very
presence of the living Christ. The mountains we must deal with in our
hearts include pride, prejudice, fear, and selfishness. When these are
brought low, we can see a greater horizon; we can see the way of the Lord. The
Gospel also calls for us to make the crooked places straight. We are
challenged to confront those temptations in our lives that will lure us away
from God. And we are told to make the rough ways smooth. This may mean
for us to forgive those who have hurt us, to refuse to allow what has happened
to you to control your life. We need to make sure there is enough time
for those that we care about.
approach Christmas, let each of us see beyond the clutter of living to the hope
that was born so many years ago in Bethlehem. We, too, can find the way
home. The call is to find a way for God to be in our days and in our
hearts. Again, the divine is in the ordinary.
kept from Christ by some great, overpowering evil. They will stand in
judgment by God, as we all will. Most fail to see or hear because they are
preoccupied with good things, busy at work, acquiring wealth, enjoying
entertainment, being comfortable, but not seeking the best. Advent
is the season of unclutter. We are challenged to unclutter our lives to find
the living Christ there with us, in us, and calling for us to come and follow
now. My prayer for all of us is that we have an uncluttered Advent, a Holy
Merry Christmas, and a very Happy New Year. AMEN!