CLERGY CORNER: Prepare — Advent is here

Posted on 19 December 2018 by LeslieM

Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.”

Mark 6:31a (ESV)

It is a happy time of the year. With Chanukah, Christmas, and friends and families getting together, December is a month we look forward to. For children, it is the “happiest time of the year.” And I hope that you all are having a happy December.

Along with the happiness of December comes the holiday preparation. We have cards to write, presents to buy, cookies to bake, meals to cook and various parties for work, for school, among neighbors, families and friends. It is busy. And, in the business of December, we need to take a break.

For many Christian traditions, the period of time between Dec. 1 and Christmas is called Advent. Advent is also a time of preparation, but a different kind of preparation. Advent is a time to prepare for the coming of Jesus. Whether it be in the manger or in his glory, Advent is a season of preparation.

When we greet each other and ask “Are you ready?” Our answers usually are “The cards are written, the presents are bought, the cookies are baked, the parties are scheduled, yes, I am prepared.” Advent asks this question: “Are you ready for Jesus?” A fair response to this question is another question: “How do I prepare for the coming of Jesus?”

At Zion and many other Christian churches, we prepare for Jesus with worship. We hold an additional worship service during the middle of the week during Advent and we call this our Advent Vespers service. A vespers service is a quiet, contemplative worship experience with dim lights, candles, singing and prayer.

I remember introducing Advent Vespers to a congregation I previously served and the response I received was “Oh, great, another thing to put on my calendar.”

I found this response to be revealing. First, it tells me that our typical schedule is cluttered during December. We have a tendency to say yes to every invitation. It is alright to say no every once in a while. You have to make time. Nobody hands it to you on a silver platter.

Second, it tells me that holiday preparations have eclipsed “Holy Day” preparations. Not only do we need to make time for family, we need to make time for God.

Third, we have treated worship as an obligation as opposed to a privilege. It is a privilege to serve the Lord. We worship not because we have to, but because we want to.

Taking all of these things in mind, I realized that I need to change my approach. So, I said during the announcements: “Consider this an opportunity to retreat from the hustle and bustle of December.” While December exhausts us, Advent replenishes us. We move away from the noise of shoppers and piped in music at the mall to quiet and contemplative worship. We move away from the bright and blinking lights along the boulevard to dim lighting and candles. In every way, Advent is a break from the craziness of December, and people who have attended our Advent Vespers service have thanked me because they need that retreat in the middle of the week.

Advent isn’t the only time that we need to take a break. For those of us who observe Advent, it is a scheduled time for quiet contemplation and reflection — not a holy obligation but a holy privilege.

It is my prayer that when Christmas comes and goes and the New Year approaches that you schedule quality time with God. Take a break from the world and set yourself apart, as Jesus did.

Pastor Gross is a pastor of Zion Lutheran Church, located at 959 SE 6 Ave., Deerfield Beach, FL 33441. For more information, call 954-421-3146 or visit www.zion-lutheran.org.

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