For what are you preparing? Last minute shopping or Christ’s birth?

Published: December 16, 2006

By Betsy Wiederkehr Huss

The anticipation is growing. The preparation is excelling. The wait is almost over. Are you exhausted or exuberant?

Every year we have this season to prepare but how do we use it? Are you mainly preparing for the commercial holiday or the holy day at the culmination of the season of Advent? This year, Advent is only 22 days long. Half of it has already past.

The readings for the Third Sunday of Advent exude joy and expectation. The first reading is Zephaniah 3:14-18a. You might be racking your brain to recall this book of the Bible which is only three chapters. In Zephaniah’s day there was the reappearance of idolatries and the degradation of religion. This book speaks of the sins, the judgment and the promise of saving. Words or phrases that stand out to me in this Advent reading are … “Shout for joy … Sing joyfully … Be glad and exult with all your heart … the Lord has removed the judgment against you … The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior.” Then it goes on to share that God will sing joyfully over his people and renew them. What an image, God singing joyfully over his people.

The responsorial psalm is from Isaiah 12, a song of thanksgiving. It contains these phrases. “God indeed is my Savior; I am confident and unafraid.” (But, are you?) “… among the nations make known his deeds, proclaim how exalted is his name.” (But, do we?) “… in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.” (But, do we believe that?)

The second reading is from Philippians 4:4-7. It starts off telling us to rejoice in the Lord not just when we feel like it or something good happens or we’re in church but to “rejoice in the Lord always.” (Emphasis is mine.)

I like the way the living Bible translates the next verses: “Let everyone see that you are unselfish and considerate in all you do.” This may be something to especially remember during the holidays. It continues, “Remember that the Lord is coming soon.” Then comes the great verse 6 where we are told to not be anxious but to pray about everything and give thanks to God for his answers.

The living Bible continues with, “If you do this you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus.” How wonderful is that!

The Gospel, Luke 3:10-18, has John the Baptist answering the crowd’s question about how they should live and preach the Good News. The people are wondering if John is the Christ. He tells them, “one mightier than I is coming … He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit …”

So, what have you been anticipating? The season’s bargains or the birth, the mall or the manger, the dinner or the eucharistic feast. For what have you been preparing? Presents to wrap and give or God’s gift wrapped in swaddling clothes, Jesus, the Christ.

We still have time to prepare our hearts for the Savior, to seek forgiveness and be renewed, to sing praises for his glorious works in history and our own lives, to pray about everything and be thankful, to experience God’s peace, to be filled with the Holy Spirit, to be exuberant. Rejoice, he is coming!

Betsy Wiederkehr Huss, a member of Blessed Sacrament Church in Jonesboro, has a master’s degree in theology from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif.