Morning Psalm 31; Evening Psalm 35
Isa. 7:10-25; 2 Thess. 2:13-3:5; Luke 22:14-30
We are blessed with more-than-a-few overnight guests in our house. Many are our own kids and grandkids, but many others are delightful, interesting friends and partners in ministry. Overnight guests have always been a large part of our life, and we are grateful that God has given us opportunities and means to host fascinating people in our home. I am also grateful for Sally’s management of this “visitor flow.” Her pattern is to spend the day after visitors leave changing sheets, cleaning rooms, and refreshing towels, preparing for the next guest who may show up. Often we don’t know who or when that may be, but the room is always ready!
I wouldn’t do it that way. I’m the kind of guy that leaves the piles piled, the sheets used, and the towels crumpled until the need arises: “Oh, Aaron and Laura are coming in tonight—better make sure the room is ready.” So I would rush upstairs, clear the clutter, clean the room, and make it presentable, hoping to beat the doorbell deadline. I value the guest who is coming. I know what blessings will come. But my preparation is, indeed, last minute.
John the Baptizer called the people of Israel to clean up the clutter of their souls in preparation for the visitation of Jesus Christ. Charles Coffin, author of the Advent hymn, “On Jordan’s Bank the Baptist’s Cry,” recaptures the call, brings it forward, and charges us to clear out the clutter and prepare afresh for a new Advent, a new visitation of Jesus:
Then cleaned be ev’ry heart from sin;
Make straight the way for God within,
And let each heart prepare a home
Where such a might guest may come.
Unfortunately we often hear the call to “Prepare the way for the coming of the Lord” as only a warning: “Get your act together!” Yes, the Pharisees were severely warned in harsh terms by the Baptist, but theirs was an unusual position: they used power and privilege to coerce and control the people of God to self-serving and mistaken ends. For the majority of the Jews, the call of preparation was much more akin to the call to prepare for a wonderful, valued guest. Indifference is not an option when the guest is eagerly awaited.
During this Advent season, we have the opportunity to prepare for fresh visitations of our Lord as well as his soon-coming final return. The gifts he brings are indeed measurable. Again, from Charles Coffin:
For you are our salvation, Lord,
Our refuge and our great reward;
Without your grace we waste away
Like flow’rs that wither and decay.
To heal our sick, stretch out your hand,
And bid the fallen sinner stand;
Shine forth and let your light restore
Earth’s own true loveliness once more.
The most wonderful, interesting, delightful guest we will ever welcome is Jesus Christ. What clutter and dirt can we deal with so that our heart is ever-ready? Can this Advent be the time when our words of repentance move into a persistent, prayerful effort to actually be free of a besetting sin? Is this the time, with the Spirit’s help, to make substantial headway against our settled anger against a relative, our seeming inability to stop and actually listen to the person talking to us, or our resistance to God’s call to share our resources with the poor? Can we prepare room for Jesus to show up and have a place to sit for a while? Maybe it’s just a matter of finally taking a serious run at 15 minutes each day, quiet and alone with our Bibles open to the Psalm of the day, expectantly asking the Lord to speak to us. Instead of waiting till the last minute, when the doorbell rings and he is at the threshold, could we possibly, calmly, with simplicity, get our hearts ready now, and keep them ready for his final appearance?
Repentance, purity, and simplicity are appropriate for welcoming him at any moment; they are also our opportunity to live every waiting day till he returns unburdened, fulfilled and free. The Great Advent we await will be previewed by little advents, frequent visitations, when we meet with Jesus in the home of our hearts.
–Rev. Dr. Steve Breedlove