Sunday, December 23, 2012

Fourth Sunday of Advent: Preparation

The crowds have been braved, the traffic endured. Most of us have finished our preparations for Christmas. The food has been bought, and preparations for the dinner have already begun in some homes. Everything is ready for our celebration of the birth of our Savior. We are prepared. Or, are we?

We are ready for the celebrations with our family and friends. We are ready to remember the birth of a baby in a manger who came to save us from our sins. But, are we prepared for the coming of a King who came to establish his kingdom. The Jews in the first century thought they were ready for the Messiah. It turned out that they were ready for someone to ride in on a white horse, smite the heathen Roman dogs, and establish Israel as the most powerful nation in the world. Along comes this man out of Nazareth who claimed to be the promised Messiah, calling people to follow him and give their allegiance to him. The problem was that this king told his followers to love their enemies, not kill them. He taught that leadership came through service, that those who would be great would be those who gave themselves for others. He even said the greatest love was giving our life up for others.

When push came to shove, many of those who followed Jesus turned on him, They were not ready for a kingdom that was upside down, that operated from a completely different set of values than the kingdoms of this world. I wonder how ready we in the twenty first century are for that kingdom. We tend to put our trust in so many other things. We look to politicians, celebrity preachers, family members, or other influential people to give us wisdom. We look at our world as a struggle for power, and want to be sure our side wins. In America, many have confused the kingdom of God with a kingdom of this world. We are quick to seek our way, and strike back at anyone who disagrees with us or does something against us. We are not ready to follow a King who established his kingdom by dying, by loving his enemies enough to lay down his life for them. We are not ready for a the return of this King to finally set all things right.

As we celebrate this Christmas, let us look beyond the manger. Look at the One who came to establish God's rule on this earth, and who will return to fully realize that rule. Follow the King who claims our full allegiance, who calls us love others as he loved us. We can be prepared, not by passively waiting or by gaining power, but by bringing the Kingdom to earth in small ways as we follow Jesus and give ourselves completely to him.

Have a blessed Christmas.

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