by The Rev. Dr. Stuart Baskin
As I write these words, I am in the midst of final preparations for a trip to Pakistan to visit our Presbyterian schools there. By the time you read these words, I will be back in Tyler. So, you will forgive me if my attention is focused abroad at the moment.
We all know that Advent is about waiting with hopeful expectation. At one level, we look forward to the annual celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. At another level, we look forward to the return of the Messiah to our weary world. These things are true. But as I look forward to my time in Pakistan, I am thinking of yet another level of waiting with hopeful expectation: preparation.
I daresay we American Christians mostly give lip service to the idea of the return of the Messiah. We affirm it in the Nicene Creed (He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end) but we hardly give it a second thought, let alone prepare ourselves for it. It is one of those things that seems to us to be part of a time horizon so far in the future that it holds little meaning to us.
If this trip to Pakistan is anything like the last trip, I expect to be overwhelmed with hospitality. When we arrive to visit each school, we sometimes have to wait a few minutes until the faculty, staff, and students are ready to welcome us. When they are ready, they throw a welcome ceremony worthy of a visiting head of state. Often there is a little marching band to perform for us and then lead us into the school ground. The walkway will be lined with children throwing flower petals, and each one of us will be draped with a lei. Then, if there is a new building to be dedicated or a groundbreaking to do, there will be a large outdoor tent with seating for several hundred, including parents, and there will be performances by the children. It is very clear that the staff, faculty, and children have spent a lot of time getting ready for us.
That’s sort of what I mean by preparing for the coming of the Messiah. It’s about dropping everything and making preparations that are appropriate for the occasion.
We practice our preparations by decorating our homes, purchasing gifts, cooking more food than we need or is good for us, and sending Christmas cards to one another. We’ll take a break from our routines to celebrate Christmas. But this is only practice. Preparing for the Messiah’s return means preparing not just our homes but our lives. Preparing our lives, in turn, means cultivating a sense of hopeful expectation.
May your Advent preparations be a dress rehearsal for the coming of the Messiah into this weary world.