When Moses told the words of the people to the Lord, the Lord said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments and be ready for the third day. For on the third day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. (Exodus 19:10-11)
"Are you ready for Christmas?" It is funny this time of year how many times a day you are asked that question. And I don't know about you, but the minute I hear it my mind goes immediately to whether I have bought all of my presents, or if the lights are up, or the tree is up, or the million-and-one other things that must be done before Christmas Day arrives. Getting ready for Christmas can be a bit overwhelming at times. But I wonder if there is not a deeper call I need to hear in that question. What if being ready for Christmas has more to do with being prepared, which seems to have much more to do with the state of my heart and soul than it does the state of my decorations and/or Christmas list?
Isaiah (and John the Baptist) knew what I'm talking about: A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (Isaiah 40:3-5) There is a certain amount of preparing that needs to be done when the God of all creation is about to enter that very creation. And it has much more to do with what is going on within us than it does about what is going on around us. There is much work to do within before God arrives. Valleys must be raised up. Mountains and hills must be made low. The uneven ground of our hearts and souls must be made level, and the rough places smoothed into a plain. After all, the King is coming. Let us prepare the way for him.
It is easy to get lost in the visions of mangers and shepherds and angels and stars and babes in swaddling clothes, and forget that this tiny baby is both the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. It is easy to allow ourselves to be filled with wonder and amazement about the beauty breaking in within us and around us and miss the awe and the reverence (and even terror) of realizing that a holy God is about to enter our world. So maybe I should spend some time, like God directed Moses to do, doing some serious preparing within before he arrives. Maybe I too need to turn my mind and my heart to the ways I need to be cleansed and consecrated before he appears. The word consecrate comes from the Hebrew word qadash which is a verb meaning to sanctify, to be holy, to separate, to set apart, or to be pure and clean. God tells Moses to make sure the people of Israel have prepared themselves in this way for his coming. "Wash your garments, and your hearts, because a holy God is coming down out of the heavens to descend on Mount Sinai. Therefore, be it Sinai or Bethlehem, get ready."
Which makes me ask myself, "Am I really ready for Christmas?" If Advent is about watching and waiting for his coming, shouldn't I be doing the same? Shouldn't I spend the days and weeks of Advent consecrating and cleansing, preparing myself for the arrival of my awesome and holy God? And what does that look like for me? God, how do you want me to prepare for your arrival?
So I guess tomorrow, when the next person asks me if I'm ready for Christmas, I think my reply will have to be, "Probably not. I've still got some preparing to do."
God said to Moses, "Go to the people. For the next two days get these people ready to meet the Holy God. Have them scrub their clothes so that on the third day they'll be fully prepared, because on the third day God will come down on Mount Sinai and make his presence known to all the people." (Exodus 19:10-11, The Message)