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Getting Ready for Christmas Day
by Hank Bahr

December 2, Wednesday – Psalm 119:1-24; Amos 3:12-4:5; 2 Peter 3:1-10; Matthew 21:23-32
(ESV Daily Office Readings Online)

“Better watch out. Better not cry. Better not pout. I’m tellin you why…”

So starts the children’s “Santa Claus is coming to town” carol. The Amos warning is a little more direct,”

“They shall take you away with hooks, even the last of you with fishhooks”(Amos4:2b).

Ouch! Peter tells the scoffers (old timey cynics) “the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed” (2 Peter 3:10). Not exactly “Merry Christmas!” Is it?

Jesus at least tells us in the Matthew reading that those who say they won’t do the Father’s will but actually do it, are the good guys (Matt. 21:28-32). David is all excited about following the rules, learning the rules and meditating on them day and night (Psalm 119:1-24). Our culture would look at these readings and say “Come on, you need to get into the Christmas Spirit!”

We must answer, this IS the Advent Spirit.

I have had all sorts of priests and ministers tell me that Advent is a time of penitence. It is like Lent, in that it is a time of preparation for the coming of our Lord. With all the “Merry Christmases” and the “Happy Holidays” (I personally hate that one), it is hard to remember that this is a time to get ourselves straight with our God. The passages for today remind us that our God is not a one edged sword. He is not just love and joy, but wrath and judgement as well. He is a two-edged sword. Slow to anger (but He does get angry- note the “fishhooks” above) and quick to forgive. This is a time to take Him seriously. When He comes again, He will know who is “naughty and nice”, and God’s “coals” in the stockings will be on the warm side!

When I read passages like these, I feel they are meant to remind me of the awesomeness of my God, and to give me comfort that he KNOWS the evil in this world, and will not let it pass forever. His laws and precepts mentioned in Psalm 119 are meant to be a gift, not a burden. Advent is a time for us to prepare ourselves for his coming, and the day will face him. In short, it is the time for us to get ready for Christmas.

Image by bigbirdz (used by permission via Creative Commons).