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12/9: Preparation

2 Advent, December 9

Bar. 5:1-9 or Mal. 3:1-4 • Cant. 4 or Cant. 16 • Phil. 1:3-11 • Luke 3:1-6

Austin Farrer once said in a homily, “The Holy Eucharist is not a special part of our religion; it simply is our religion sacramentally enacted” (Essential Sermons). Again and again, it is critical that the whole gospel be told and enacted in ways memorable and brief.

This is the entire story of Advent Preparation, the season of waiting for the coming of the Christ Child, the coming of Christ in the age of the Spirit, and, most important, the coming of Christ at the end of time. He will come like a refining fire and like fuller’s soap. He will purge and rescue. He will come to those who stand and look and wait. For those who are prepared, he will bring joy and light, fragrant beauty, robes of righteousness, a diadem of glory, and everlasting life (Bar. 5:1-9; Mal. 3:1-4). How are we to wait and how are we to prepare?

Lesson One: Repentance. In the great canticle known as the Benedictus, Zachariah sets forth the mission of his son, John the Baptist, in preparing for the arrival of Jesus. John will, he says, proclaim “the knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins” (Luke 1:77). The summons to repentance is an essential part of all Christian living. Every moment of every day is a decision in which the heart, mind, soul, and flesh move closer to their proper end in God or recede into a world of self-obsession and narrow greed. The battle is often lost, and so we repent again and again. Turning to God, we turn to our only help and our only salvation. What have we done that we ought not to have done? What have we not done that we ought to have done? When did our speech not help or even cause harm? When was our silence cowardly and complicit with evil? When did we nurse grudges and plan revenge? The invocation to confess our sins is one of the most liberating things we can hear if we believe in the loving kindness of God.

Lesson Two: Enlightenment. Jesus will come to save those who are in darkness and who sit in the shadow of death. Forgiveness is not enough. He is the light that enlightens everyone coming into the world. “He has deigned,” says Columbanus, an ancient Celtic Abbot, “so to excite from the inertia of sleep, so to ignite with the fire of love that the flame of his love and the desire of his great affection exceed the brilliance of the stars, and divine love always burns within” (Instructionibus: De compunctione 12, 2-3). This is not merely personal enlightenment. “O God, grant me, in the name of Jesus Christ your son and my God, that love which knows not how to fall, that my lamp may be ignited and never be extinguished; may it burn in me a sinner and shine forth to others.”

Lesson Three: Direction. We prepare ourselves for the One who will “guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:71). Jesus is our present peace and the peace we make in every effort to construct a more humane and decent life, both at home and in public witness. As our present peace, we rest in him. As the peace for which we work, Jesus awakens us to see the truth and casts a light upon our path. He gives us, according to our ability and the measure of his grace, good works to walk in.

Look It Up
Read Philippians 1:6.

Think About It
Until that day: repentance, enlightenment, and direction.


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