We need to be reminded that it is possible to leave Christ out of Christmas. What must we do to prevent this from happening? How do we prepare spiritually for Christmas? Taking our cue from John the Baptist, it requires that we feed our spirits, share our faith and help those that are struggling along our journey.
Preparing to celebrate the birth of Jesus has a spiritual component to it. If this is overlooked or ignored, you are going to feel very empty on Christmas Day. After the gifts are unwrapped, the food is eaten and the decorations are packed away for another year, you are going to wonder what this season was really all about.
I don't want this to happen to you or me. What, then, must we do in the days ahead to prepare for the celebration of Christ's birth so that we do not feel empty and drained on Christmas Day, but filled with His gracious Spirit and ready to resume our common journey refreshed and renewed.
I believe our text has some suggestions for us. While not a traditional Christmas passage drawn from the birth narratives, it is nonetheless an Advent text filled with some wise advice from the last Old Testament prophet, John the Baptizer. What would that be? The Lord comes to people that prepare for Him. This is a message we need to hear as we are planning our busy schedules in the days ahead. We need to be reminded that it is possible to leave Christ out of Christmas.
What must we do to prevent this from happening? How do we prepare spiritually for Christmas? Taking our cue from John the Baptist, it requires that we feed our spirits, share our faith and help those that are struggling along our journey.
As ironic as this may sound, I'm not sure we face a more challenging time to nourish our spirits than Advent. This is because in our culture, December is the busiest time of the year for many people. There are not enough hours in the day to do all that needs to be done. Most of us burn the candle at both ends and still leave things undone on our to-do list. Rarely do we have the luxury during Advent of laying some responsibilities aside. We merely add more to them.
What suffers when we do this? Our spirits do. We simply do not have enough time to attend to the needs of our spirits when so many other demands are thrust upon us.
We must, however, be disciplined enough to carve out time to nourish our spirits by finding a quiet place to read, ponder, reflect, meditate and pray. I know this is not easy, but it is necessary if we are to prepare our hearts for the celebration of Christ's birth. Too much is at stake if we don't.
The central character in our text is John the Baptist. To call him interesting is an understatement. For those of you who saw the 1971 musical, "Godspell," you recall how John was characterized. In this modern retelling of the good news about Jesus, John appeared on stage dressed like a circus ringmaster. His job was to get the show going and he did. "Prepare ye the way of the Lord," he sang over and over to a haunting melody.
John was sent by God to get the people ready for Jesus. He was not the Messiah and knew it. He knew, however, that someone needed to prepare the people for Jesus' arrival.
So how did he do this? Did he go to Jerusalem and preach in the temple, the hub of all religious activity in Palestine? No, he stayed in the desert and preached to those that left the city to come and hear him. Why?
Robert F. Browning is pastor of Smoke Rise Baptist Church in Stone Mountain, Ga. He holds a bachelor's degree from Western Kentucky University and the M.Div. and D.Min. from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Jackie, have three children: Jason, Amy Blair and Josh.