Pause. Prepare. Ponder

By Pastor Dave Lyle

“O that you would open the heavens and come down!”

These words open our first reading on the First Sunday of Advent (Isaiah 64:1), a prophetic cry unto the Lord to come down and set things right. It’s a cry that lives in my heart these days, days when there is so much that should not be. So much is wrong. Come, Lord Jesus, do not delay!

Grace Sanctuary during Advent. Photo by Debra Funderwhite.

The season of Advent, however, imposes a pause upon us. Our focus at Grace this Advent is threefold – we pause, we prepare, we ponder.Advent begins with a reminder that we are still a waiting people.We wait not simply to celebrate Christmas, but in expectation of Christ’s return. Advent reminds us that we live on God’s time, not our own.And thank God for that! In a season that is filled with joyful (and sometimes less joyful) hustle and bustle, God urges us to stop. Pause.Take time to pray, to simply be.

Out of such pauses comes the call to prepare.Yes, there are gifts to buy, cookies to be baked, trees to be trimmed. But there is a deeper preparation to which the coming Christ calls us. How do we prepare for the coming of the King? Well, if we are yearning for Christ to bring in the Kingdom, then our preparation is to live as signs of the Kingdom that will come.We live in a world wracked by war, hatred, division, and inequality. Christ calls us to prepare for his coming with acts of peace, love, kindness, and justice.

Advent is also a time to ponder, just as Mary treasured and pondered the shepherds’ words in her heart. During this season, we are prepared to hear once more the great mystery of the Incarnation.The same Word by which God called creation into being is the child formed in Mary’s womb, a vulnerable child through whom the new creation will emerge.The light and life of the Christ child still appear in multitudinous ways, each and every day.Take time to look, to wonder and rejoice.

How will you pause? Perhaps you can take on an Advent discipline. Start your day more slowly. Refuse to give into the tyranny of the urgent. Sit. Pray. How will you prepare? While you shop, perhaps, buy gifts for those in need beyond your own family. Give a financial gift that will help bring peace and dignity.Volunteer in the community. How will you ponder? A good time and place to begin is in worship at Grace, on Sundays and Wednesdays, culminating in the miraculous joy of Christmas Eve. Come, and rejoice that we are on God’s timetable and that God is still in control.The Christ who has come will come again.The Spirit empowers and enlivens us as we wait and as we work.

When the time finally comes to tear open presents, remember that God has already torn open the heavens and entered fully into our human story. He comes wrapped not in paper, but in our humanity, come to give us the joys of heaven.And he will come again. Come, Lord Jesus!