Isaiah 63: 16-17, 19, 64:2-7; I Corinthians 1:3-9; Psalm 80; Mark 13:33-37
The question we should be asking ourselves during Advent is not “Am I ready?” Ready implies an end point, a stopping place. In truth we can never be “ready” for the coming of Christ, our final readiness, our purity and sinlessness before the Father, are provided by Christ himself. By our own power we can never completely overcome our fallen nature, our rebellious will. What we should ask is, “How well am I preparing?” How do we prepare for Christ’s Coming? In our Gospel lesson from St. Mark Our Lord says, “Be constantly on the watch! Stay awake!...Look around you! Be on guard!” What this means is that we are to live intentionally, consciously, watchfully. Our preparation for Christ’s return is not just confined to the season of Advent, though in this season we are to be more aware of it, it is, in fact, the purpose of our Christian life. We are to proclaim Christ’s life, death, resurrection and ascension, until he comes again, as we pray in the Liturgy. The whole of our life in the Church is preparing for and proclaiming the Coming of the Lord.
In our second lesson, St. Paul wrote to the Church at Corinth, “He will strengthen you to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” This passage contains two important points. The first is that our greatest resource in preparing for Christ is Christ himself. In the Church, in our hearts, in the Caim. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life, the Light that guides and illumines us. The second point is that the Day of the Lord is the coming of Christ and his Kingdom in its fullness, and we should live every day as a day of the Lord. Every day we should look at our life, our thoughts, words, behaviors, pastimes, attitudes, feelings, and relationships, and ask ourselves, “If Christ were to come tomorrow, how prepared am I?” “How pure, and spotless and blameless would I be?” As I said before, we can’t do it all ourselves, but we do have to do what we can do, otherwise we’ve fallen down on our job. St. Paul also wrote that the Church in Corinth had “…been richly endowed with every gift of speech and knowledge” and “…you lack no spiritual gift as you wait…”. We, as the Church, have been given everything we need to fulfill our mission, both corporately and personally. However, we need to use them, and use them enough to become proficient. There is a common saying that to learn to pray, you must pray. That is true, and it applies to all spiritual as well as practical gifts, talents and knowledge. Those of you in training in the Order know that if you want to retain the words and knowledge you have gained from your reading and study they must be used, or they are lost. If we want to be more patient, we must PRACTICE patience. If we want to be more kind, we must PRACTICE kindness.
It seems like more than ever this year, because of the economy, the emphasis in this season is BUY, BUY, BUY, SPEND, SPEND, SPEND. Stores opening at midnight on Thanksgiving, or even earlier, people pepper spraying each other in line at WalMart. If we want to give a gift in the true spirit of the season, one that will last and will continue to bless the recipient, we must give of ourselves in Christ, in service and love. Whatever we do to the least of these, we do to Christ. When we are angry, impatient, sneering, demeaning, we are doing it to Christ. When we are gentle, understanding, compassionate, that too we do to Christ. Performers are told, if they are nervous in front of an audience, to picture them in their underwear. I don’t know if that works, but if we want to amend our behavior and our lives, picturing everyone as our Lord and God Jesus Christ, can certainly help. I seem to be quoting a lot of sayings, but here’s another one, instead of “What would Jesus do?” we need to ask “What would I do to Jesus?” If we would be ashamed to inflict whatever the behavior is upon our Lord, then we should be ashamed to inflict it on anyone, and that includes ourselves. We should also ask, “What would I do for Jesus?” Because if we are not willing to do it for someone else, we are not truly willing to do it for Christ.
In our Lesson from the Prophet Isaiah we read, “O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay and you are the potter: we are all the work of your hands.” If we will let ourselves be molded by God; body, heart, mind and spirit we will be prepared, we will be ready, in Christ, we will be blameless, on the day of the Lord.
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