A Time for Preparation
Year’s ago, an older woman at a church I used to serve declared simply, “My worship of God on Sunday morning is more or less dependent on my worship of God before I get to church on Sunday morning.” She was a simple, but profoundly deep woman. She had a connection with Christ and people that was almost mystical in beauty. She understood that spiritual depth was far more dependent on the preparation of her own heart, than on what anyone else fed her.
When we worship God prior to going to church, we begin witnessing the Sunday church-time activities through a completely different lens. Worship music ceases to be something that does or doesn’t meet our preferences. It becomes an instrument for praise and thanksgiving. The sermon ceases to be about the silver-tongued messenger, and becomes so much more about the message. The people cease to be men and women we like and don’t like. They become bearers of the image of God. These changes reflect a heart level change that happens through much time in the cauldron of prayer, side by side with our God. Yes, that’s available.
When we are alone with God, with no one else watching, preparing ourselves for the church service (or the workday, or the…..), then we become prepared to truly worship God at church, regardless of how engaging the worship, regardless of how riveting the sermon. Indeed, we even enter the walls of our church looking to bless those we don’t like, and greet those we don’t know. It is the worshipper who has met in secret with God, who then enters the doors of the sanctuary, looking to “Contribute to the needs of the saints and to show hospitality” (Romans 12:13).
I’ve found something similar when it comes to the Christmas season. My experience of worship each Christmas almost always depends on my preparation ahead of time. I’m not talking about preparation around the tree or in the stockings, though that deserves its time. And Lord knows I’m not talking about hanging the lights around the garage—how I wish to delegate that task! I’m talking about my preparation for the coming Messiah. Do I ask the Lord to prepare me for Christ afresh this season, yet again? Do I bathe that hope in prayer? Do I wait eagerly for “good news of great joy for all people,” “peace on earth, good will to men,” and even those breath-taking words, “Nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 2:10; 2:14; 1:37).
Advent is the season of preparation for Messiah. It’s a four-week window, in which we moderns can stand fast against the assault of Christmas boredom and materialism. It is the season before the season, a time that God would use to “Prepare the way of the Lord” to “Make straight paths for Him” (Matthew 3:3). We engage worship at Christmas as we bathe these promises in prayer. We anticipate the second advent of our Messiah even as we reflect upon the hope that is ours from His first advent.
So may we ask ourselves today, “What is it I really want this Christmas?” Don’t answer too quickly. “What is it that I really want this Christmas?” My guess is that we want just what Scripture promises The Christ will bring. May we prepare ourselves to receive it in full, this Christmas season.
- Pr. Adrian Boykin, Lead Pastor, Kearney eFree Church