It begins earlier each year. If Halloween were not such a popular holiday, who knows when the tinsel would come out. Thanksgiving doesn’t have the marketable qualities, I guess, to stave off Christmas preparations for an additional month. I’m drinking a Pumpkin Spice Latte and feeling a little outdated, actually. Should’ve had the Skinny Peppermint Mocha.
I was reading another preparation story, the story that started this mess in the first place. Actually, there are many stories of preparation in the bible, it seems like something that God values for us, maybe even a gift he gives us. Jewish people from the ancients to the moderns celebrate holidays with themes of preparation, such as Passover and Rosh Hashanah. Christians can’t read too far into the New Testament without finding similar themes (check out Mt 25) This year we will celebrate advent in a new way with our kids, teaching them to spend time each day remembering the story of God.
Luke tells the story of Christ’s birth, but adds an amazing glimpse of the preparatory events leading up to it. I read it with longing, wanting to remember that my Christmas story also begins with a visit from a Messenger Who Stands In The Presence of God.
Zechariah, reached for the holy stick, the one meant for him, and entered the temple. It didn’t happen often, a priest staying inside a little too long, people began to wonder. By the altar, an Angel of The Lord. Maybe months later, Mary was visited. She was preparing for something else entirely. Betrothed to a sure thing, an honorable future. And then the Messenger entered her room. A tremor went through both hearts at the sight of this ancient being. They remembered the visit he paid to the prophet Daniel, one that brought desolation.
To both he says, do not be afraid. God has heard your prayers, Zechariah. Mary, God has seen you, favored one. You will have sons and they will be great. The Lord will name them. John. Many will rejoice at his birth, and a Holy Spirit will inspire him. He will be dawn to the sun. He will prepare the people for the Other. Jesus. Of the great kings, there is no equal. The throne of the great one will pass to this child, and eternity will have no power to take it.
Then Mary sang. She sang a song about love’s strong arm reaching out for the sake of the lowly. About hungry bellies full of food and mercy heaped on generations of the fearing. About a small insignificant soul snatched up and set down on high. When nothing can magnify The Lord, the soul can.
And the way-maker was born and Zechariah spoke. His voice struck fear in all who heard him, and he defended the unusual name God had christened. The people whispered of a God-touched baby, they wrapped the news tight in their hearts with expectations of what he would become.
Then Zechariah prophesied. He remembered that old promise God gave to their first father, the one that meant they could finally be free. Even free from fear. The promise of a salvation that rescues from today into forever. He said his son would be twilight, a dawning of light before the sunrise, preparing eyes for brightness. And here is where we wait this advent season, in the twilight. We are the Baptizer, making a way in our hearts for the coming of forgiveness and salvation. And because of the tender mercy of our God, the sunrise shall visit us from on high.