Advent is the one Liturgical Season which seems to have broad appeal. It is short, and the payoff is long on good feelings. After all, this is the “season of anticipating joy.” Even the dusting of snow and the cold wind are part of what makes this time so special. Our expectations are so high and everything, as we hope for, should join in the festivities of the season. We expect that the “message” we hear from the pulpit will add to our joyful expectations. However, there is a sobering tone which brings us back to the real meaning of this season-Preparation for the Coming of Jesus.

The unknown author of Third Isaiah runs the full length and breadth of Human Heart. Israel returns from exile in Babylon. Their hopes were great, but the results were less than spectacular. They realized that human achievements are tainted by sin and always lack the perfection we too often proclaim. There is a limitation as to what humans can achieve, hope and build. Even our best intentions and greatest works leave us still looking for true and enduring peace and happiness. In many instances, we have become fearful of the works of our hands. We must admit that at times we are under threat of what we produce, achieve and discover. From the result of human work, of the work of human intellect and the tendencies of his or her will…human beings are living increasingly in fear. We are becoming afraid that what we are producing…can readily turn against us.

With this human condition, the unknown author of Third Isaiah proclaims: never despair. There is always plenty of reason to HOPE. This hope does not come from further exploits in technology or economic stability and prosperity. The ultimate affliction of human heart must turn to God for reconciliation that brings peace and drives out fear. Consider Isaiah 64:8: “You are our Father; We are the clay, and You are the potter; And we are the work of Your hand.”

It is so easy for us to be distracted and preoccupied with the things that pass, and to miss the time of God’s coming. Too often we are looking for all the right things in all the wrong places. Advent is time for us to focus our eyes, perk up our ears, and ready our hearts for the God who comes at the appointed time. If we are off busying ourselves with many things, we can easily miss the one thing that is required for our salvation. Part of being ready is the awareness of just how much we need God’s healing grace.

Often the season of Advent signals the preparation of a gift-list. And we often check it more than twice. Yet this season is a preparation for the one gift that none of us deserves but all of us need-the Child Jesus. It is so easy for us to busy ourselves and have so little room in the inn of our hearts for his birth, for his coming. Yet God wants to send his Son into our hearts as the ultimate expression of his love for us. Paul captures the power of this gift in writing to the Corinthians: “I thank God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus, that you were enriched in everything by Him, in all utterance and all knowledge… (I Cor. 1:4-5).

Advent is the season for us to prepare ourselves in order to receive this gift worthily. Jesus wants your heart. Are you ready to give it to Him?
Merry Christmas!

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