Posted by: alisonwalley | 13 December 2009

Are you ready for Christmas?

Being a middle-of-the-road Baptist church we don’t go in for the traditional church calendar much, apart from marking Christmas, Easter and Pentecost. But today is the third Sunday in Advent, and the prayer for this Sunday in the 1666 Book of Common Prayer reads:

O Lord Jesus Christ, who at thy first coming didst send thy messenger to prepare thy way before thee: Grant that the ministers and stewards of thy mysteries may likewise so prepare and make ready thy way, by turning the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, that at thy second coming to judge the world we may be found an acceptable people in thy sight, who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen

The question which is the title for this blog gets asked a lot around this time. By it people usually mean: have you bought all the presents, have you wrapped them and sent them? ordered the turkey? written and posted the Christmas cards?

Thomas Cramner, the martyred Archbishop of Canterbury who wrote the Prayer Book, was certainly concerned that people get ready for Christmas. But not exactly in the way in which the question is currently asked! By ‘ministers and stewards of thy mysteries’ I suppose he’s primarily referring to those in the church responsible for teaching others (that would have been the ordained clergy of the day). But he’s obviously thinking in terms of the Christmas story, of the angel’s words to Zechariah in Luke 1.

Proclaiming that Zechariah and his wife were to have a son (John) Gabriel says:

He will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous – to make ready a people prepared for the Lord (Luke 1:17, TNIV)

That phrase ‘turning the hearts’ goes back even further, to the prophet Malachi about 500 years before the birth of Christ. He prophesied that God would send a prophet like Elijah “before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes”.

We tend to think of Christmas as a joyful time, and so it is. But we tend to forget what Cramner remembered and the prophecy about John’s birth should remind us: God sent his son to deliver us from the judgement which rightly waited for us, rebels against God. Now is the time of grace, when we have the chance to turn to him.

Now is the time our hearts need to be turned “to the wisdom of the just”, so when he comes again, as he will surely do, we may be found acceptable in his sight.

Are you ready for Christmas?


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