I am naturally an over-preparer. When my family went to a Christian retreat center to “camp” for the weekend, I read several books on wilderness survival, wore a whistle/compass/waterproof-match-holder around my neck, and packed a fanny pack full of supplies just in case I somehow wandered off of this very full campground and needed to survive on the land for several days. I was seven.
My preparedness has become much more practical over the years but it is still here. By the 1st of December, 90% of my shopping is done. When I go on a trip, I usually have some sort of detailed printed itinerary. By detailed, I mean at least every hour is accounted for. At one point, in a very “typical Bailey” move, I made a spreadsheet with the results of a personality test I made all of my family and close friends take.
While parts of my life are structured down to the minute, if you walked into my house, you probably wouldn’t guess that I prefer things to be structured. There are dishes in the sink. Flecks of a rope tug-of-war toy my dogs destroyed are scattered across the floor at my feet. Suffice it to say that if it is something that makes me feel insecure in myself, something I think I might not be able to do to my own standard, or something I don’t care one lick about, I am much less likely to prepare.
I think the coming of Christ falls into all three of these categories, sometimes all at the same time.
In my mind and in my heart, I have assurance that God will be faithful to His promise and that Christ is coming to take me to the place He is preparing for me. However, with that assurance comes the reminder that I must be prepared.
My preparations for the arrival of Christ often fail. I know I’m going to fall short in my pursuit of sanctification so instead of leaning into the strength and grace that the Holy Spirit provides, I just call it quits. I don’t even try to imitate the example given by Christ. Or sometimes, I know what I need to be doing but I want so badly to do it myself that I don’t rely on the tools given to me by God. I neglect my time in His word and on my knees in prayer. I give my brothers and sisters in Christ simple, “I’m fine” answers instead of allowing them an opportunity to come alongside me. I worship at the bed of comfort instead of waking up and allowing myself to be strengthened through worship and the Sacraments on Sunday mornings.
And sometimes, I just don’t care if I’m prepared or not and I do exactly what Paul warned against and use grace as an excuse for not living out my faith.
But Advent wakes me up from this state of apathy and calls me to awareness. With the lighting of the candles, I hear the drums of war off in the distance and know that the King is coming to fight the Evil and reclaim our hearts. When the time is right, when the preparations are complete, He will come for you and for me.
But will we be ready? Will we look ahead and prepare for His arrival?
Advent calls me to survey my life. Each week draws us closer to the celebration of Christmas. But the Baby in the manger, He didn’t stay a baby. He grew and lived a life of humble example. When He left to prepare our future home, He left us with tasks to prepare the Earth for His arrival.
I am looking at my life very closely this year and wondering, will I be caught off guard when He arrives?
Will I be standing, twiddling my thumbs, saying I didn’t prepare or will I be busy doing my King’s work?
When He arrives, will I be able to answer that yes, I have fed the hungry, welcomed the stranger, and clothed the naked? Does my life show that I am preparing for this moment, or am I more caught up preparing for things that ultimately, don’t matter?
Advent is a season of almsgiving. That is where I’m starting my preparation, with almsgiving. I am seeing where I have excess and, instead of hoarding, learning to let go and offer with open hands what the Lord has given me. But it can’t stop there.
If I am to emulate Christ’s giving, I need to make my sacrifice personal. I cannot just give what I have in excess, I must give something that costs. This looks different in each stage of life. I have been very blessed and there are always ways I can pare down my lifestyle to give to others. In some seasons, my time is a valuable commodity that I can offer on behalf of others. Often, it is my comfort that needs to be offered up at the feet of God on behalf of another.
It might be opening my doors to someone who makes me uncomfortable. Maybe it’s making a meal and going to sit with someone who needs a friend, even though I was really hoping someone else would step up and be their friend. Perhaps it’s taking a step to minister to those who are marginalized, imprisoned, or enslaved to sin.
Whatever it is, in this Advent season of preparation, may we take seriously the call to be about the Lord’s will. May we be like Elizabeth, recognizing the coming of Christ from a distance. Like Simeon and Anna, may we wait in eager anticipation, assured of God’s promises, for His arrival. But most of all, may we fix our eyes upon Christ, the Author and Perfecter of our faith so when that glorious day comes, we will not be caught off guard.