Advent is a season of preparation, a season of making-ready. But lest we get lost in the frenzied shuffle of tree-trimming and gift-buying, cookie-baking and party-planning, present-wrapping and card-mailing, we need to remember that those things are not all Advent preparation is. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “We have become so accustomed to the idea of divine love and of God’s coming at Christmas that we no longer feel the shiver of fear that God’s coming should arouse in us…The coming of God is truly not only glad tidings, but first of all frightening news for everyone who has a conscience.” (1) After all, what is it for which we are preparing? My friends, we are only preparing for the changing of everything that we know. That’s all.
God did not come into the world to simply validate what we were doing with our lives. The Christ child was not born so that we could continue to live as we have. The Spirit did not ascend to us and say “Great job, people…keep it up! Way to go! Rah…rah…rah!” You and I both know that’s not the way it happened. Frightening news? You bet. We are not called in this season to prepare to dress up our lives in their best finery so that we can be presented to God. (No need…God is here!) No, we are called in this season to prepare to change. And that should be frightening to anyone who really bothers to think about it if only for a split second. Because you see, so long ago, “the true light, which enlightens everyone, [came] into the world.” And if we prepare ourselves to open our eyes, if we prepare ourselves to live our lives focused on that light, if we prepare our hearts to know and speak the truth in love, then we cannot help but be changed. And that IS frightening news but it is also oh, so glorious!
So go forth and prepare to be changed!
Grace and Peace,
(1) From “The Coming of Jesus in our Midst”, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas, (Plough Publishing)