Including today, there are precious few days until Christmas Day. Thanks for the reminder! In retail terms, that means only a few more days to purchase gifts for special somebodies (if the truth be known, anybody and everybody).
That's the Christmas spirit! Shop until you drop. Buy as much as you can and then some. Spend money you don't have. Max out the credit card. Get another credit card. It's about the economy. Buy! Buy! Buy! Don't misunderstand. There's nothing wrong with spending. Merchants have to make a living, and the days between Black Friday and Christmas Eve are crucial.
The problem comes when we spend too much, especially on ourselves, and fail to prepare properly for Christmas. Unfortunately, this secular-humanistic culture teaches that a lot of stuff is the way to happiness, so we spend an enormous amount of time preparing our lives for more stuff, especially during December.
I wonder how John the Baptizer would respond if he were to show up during Advent in any given city in America today—whether New York or Cadiz, Ky., my small hometown? He would be aghast at how we prepare for Christmas. Our bug-eating, wash-them-down-with-honey ancestor prepared the way for Christ in his proclamation of repentance and practicing the rite of baptism as the ritual to show repentance after one confessed his or her sins.
It is important to consider how we are preparing for Christmas early during Advent. All of us will shop in the course of the next several days—some more than others. Perhaps we should prepare for Christmas with some tips from the Baptizer, as it is articulated by the first evangelist, Matthew.
Prepare with Repentance
The kingdom is near! Get right with God! Christmas Day is near! Understand the significance of it! Christmas is about Christ. It is His birthday we celebrate. We honor Him by honoring each other with presents. This is all good. Perhaps a change of thought and practice, though, should occur. Repentance is about that—changing.
Maybe we repent by not spending so much. Maybe we give an amount equal to what we spend on ourselves to a homeless shelter or soup kitchen. Maybe we invite homeless families into our homes on Christmas Day to join our families for dinner. Of what do you need to repent, given that Christmas Day is about the kingdom of heaven—and it is near and it is here?
Prepare with Simplicity
John would have fit right in my generation's clothing of the late '60s and early to mid-'70s! Wild and bizarre! Something was different about him. The way he dressed and what he ate evidence a simplicity that's lost in our culture. December is dubbed by that Christmas favorite, "It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Year." True. Add to that, though, it's the most stressful time of the year!
Simplifying our lives might be a good way to prepare for Christmas. Limiting ourselves is a challenge, especially when it comes to clothing and food. However, it's not just those items. We go from one Yuletide function to the other, never pausing to reflect through reading accounts of Matthew and Luke of what happens or a good book about the Christmas (Christian) life. Slow down and simplify!
Prepare with Worship
People came to John to be baptized as they confessed their sins. Obviously some confessing of sins should take place as we prepare for Christmas. There is something else here, I think. Baptism is an act of worship. Maybe the symbolism for us is that we go out from our homes and places of business to the church or some other meeting place for worship and worship Christ. Together, one with another, we declare the mighty deeds of God's salvation and what a deed is God's coming to us in His Son, Jesus Christ. Set aside some times to worship privately and communally. Be deliberate about this.
How will we prepare for Christmas? With repentance, simplicity and worship.