Advent Reflection: Be Prepared!

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Jesus said to his disciples: “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. In those days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day that Noah entered the ark. They did not know until the flood came and carried them away. So will it be also at the coming of the Son of Man. Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.”

Matthew 24:37-39, 42

Christ could return today. You could die in a car accident next week. We all know it’s true, but we would rather not think about it. Does the way you live your life reflect this knowledge? If Christ returns today, are you ready?

 

Going Deeper

Read Genesis 6:57:24

During the season of Advent, we are not only called to prepare to celebrate and remember Jesus’ entry into our world two thousand years ago. We are also called to prepare for Jesus’ second coming, which, the Bible says repeatedly, will happen when we least expect it.

Are you living like Noah, a righteous man who walked with God, or like his neighbors, who were corrupt, performed wicked deeds, and entertained evil desires?

To help answer that question, examine how you spend your time and money. Take a look at your bank and credit card statements to get a clear picture of where your money is going. Record your activities for a few days (you can use this log) so you can examine what you are choosing to do with your time. Do you put a priority on pursuing earthly pleasures, impressing your friends, or defeating your enemies? Or are you focused on growing closer to God; loving all of your neighbors, especially those who disagree with you; and serving God and his people?

I challenge you to choose one activity or expenditure that tends to push you away from God and replace it with something that helps you to walk more closely with God.

Holy Spirit, help me to align my priorities with your priorities. Give me the strength to make choices that are consistent with those priorities.

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Prepare Your Heart to Celebrate Christ’s Birth

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There are several places in the Bible that call us to reflect on God’s faithfulness to his people throughout history (for example, Psalm 136). I am offering daily meditations this Advent based on the Jesse tree. As we remember how God showed his love for us from the moment of creation, I invite you to reflect on how God has been moving in your life.

What is a Jesse tree?

Isaiah wrote:

But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse,

And from his roots a bud shall blossom.

The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him:

A spirit of wisdom and of understanding,

A spirit of counsel and of strength,

A spirit of knowledge and of fear of the Lord.

Isaiah 11:1-2

A tradition that began in the Middle Ages, the Jesse tree reminds us that Jesus is the shoot that sprouted from the stump of Jesse, King David’s father.

How can I use these reflections?

I invite you to read the Bible verse and reflection question in the morning, so you can think about it throughout the day. Later in the day, maybe over your lunch hour or just before bed, you can read the full Bible passage and meditation. If you enjoy journaling, take time to write down your thoughts or compose a letter to God. If you express yourself through art, you can make your own Jesse tree ornament based on the Bible passage. To share this experience with your family, read the Bible story from a children’s Bible and have the kids color their own Jesse tree ornaments.

Click here to join me on this Advent journey!

As we frantically decorate our homes, purchase and wrap presents, cook and bake, it can be hard to find time and space to reflect and prepare our hearts for the celebration of Jesus’ birth. I hope these reflections help you to take a moment each day to remember what the season of Advent is all about.

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John the Baptist–our model in preparing for Jesus’ arrival

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Fourth Sunday of Advent 12/21/14

Even before he was born, John the Baptist knew that Jesus was something special. When both women were pregnant, Jesus’ mother Mary visited John’s mother Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb. (Luke 1:41a)

When you notice Jesus’ presence in your holiday preparations and celebrations, don’t be afraid to leap or sing or dance for joy. It truly is amazing that God came into our world as one of us and continues to make his presence known in our lives. Let’s celebrate!

John later paved the way for Jesus’ ministry, prompting people to repent, preparing them to receive Jesus’ teachings.

As it is written in Isaiah the prophet: “Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way. A voice of one crying out in the desert; ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.’ “

John the Baptist appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sin. People of the whole Judean countryside and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins. John was clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist. He fed on locusts and wild honey. And this is what he proclaimed. “One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the holy Spirit.’ “

Mark 1:2-8

What can we learn from John about preparing the way for Jesus? Reflect on the questions below while you listen to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kuUl522_8jQ

-John lived simply. Because he didn’t worry about having a nice house, fancy food or stylish clothing, he was able to keep his whole life focused on Jesus. Is there something you can simplify in your holiday celebrations this year, that will allow you to focus more on Jesus? 

-John was humble. He didn’t see himself as better than others. He didn’t try to lift himself up. Instead he lifted Jesus up. When you bake cookies, host parties, send card and give gifts, what is your real motivation? Are you trying to impress other people; to make yourself look good? Or are you trying to point people to Jesus?

-John brought out the best in the people around him. When you gather with family and friends for Christmas, are you looking for the best in those people? Who are you most dreading spending time with this holiday? Write down five things you appreciate about that person. Share at least one of those things with that person.

How do we prepare for Jesus’ return?

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Advent Reflection 12/11/14

Since everything is to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought you to be, conducting yourselves in holiness and devotion, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved in flames and the elements melted by fire. But according to his promise we await new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

Therefore, beloved, since you await these things, be eager to be found without spot or blemish before him, at peace.

II Peter 3:11-14

But you, beloved, remember the words spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, for they told you, “In the last time there will be scoffers who will live according to their own godless desires.” These are the ones who cause divisions; they live on the natural plane, devoid of the Spirit. But you, beloved, build yourselves up in your most holy faith; pray in the holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in the love of God and wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.

Jude 1:17-21

Yesterday we talked about living each day as if it were your last. However, if I truly lived that way, I would never exercise, my dishes would always be dirty, and I wouldn’t get much sleep. We also have to approach each day as if we will live forever. Our faith journey is a marathon, not a sprint. We will only make it to the finish line if our training is thorough and our energy is replenished frequently.

How do you train for the marathon of faith? Through prayer, reading the Bible, and learning from other Christians who have run the race or are running it alongside us. In this way you can “conduct yourself in holiness and devotion,” “build yourself up in your most holy faith,” and “keep yourself in the love of God.”

While running the race, how do we stay hydrated and energized? Where do we get the strength to keep going? Through the Sacraments, which give us the grace and spiritual food we need to persevere in our journey of faith.

Commit to one thing you will do on a regular basis to nourish you for your marathon of faith.