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Getting our spiritual houses ready

For a lot of folks, Christmas season has already started. It began with the last piece of turkey going off the table and the stores opening their doors, sometimes even on Thursday night. It’s the height of the shopping season, with retailers looking forward to record sales and increased profits.

But it is also the season for something else. For those of us who live according to the spiritual rhythms of the liturgical calendar it is Advent; the four Sundays before Christmas.

Four Sundays to prepare ourselves, to get ready, to listen to the voice of the one crying in the wilderness, Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Isaiah 40:3

It’s the voice of Isaiah, it’s the voice of John the Baptist, it’s the voice of the church at its best – and most contentious. Most folks don’t want to hear about getting the road ready for Jesus to ride on. They think he’s already here, and Christmas songs should be the order of the day. Why wait?

Because, for Jesus to really come here, for the highway of our hearts to really be ready, we have to prepare ourselves. That means a little discipline and self-control. Go ahead, play “Jingle Bells” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” but in the church let the choirs sing, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”

One of the best ways to describe this came from the music director at a church I served many years ago. She was leading a children’s sermon, and she told them that Advent was a time to get our spiritual houses ready for Jesus. I’ve always loved that analogy; to get the houses of our hearts, souls and minds ready so that when Jesus arrives, we will be open to him.

One more thing I should tell you about that person: she was a lesbian. She had been married for many years, had four kids, but then things got rough. At the time I knew her, she was in a committed relationship with another woman. If that sounds strange to you – to be talking about such a thing during Advent/Christmastime – let me also say she was one of the most deeply spiritual persons I have ever known. Jesus and his words oozed out of her life and into the lives of those of us around her.

God comes to tell us to get ready. And sometimes we are called to get ready from the last person we would expect – those on the margins, those we might judge as unworthy, those we think are not really Christian. In their lives and in their ministries they teach us that Jesus still calls on us to hold off on judgment and embrace one another in his love.

If you really want to prepare the way of the Lord, that’s a good way to do it.

REV. DR. TOM ROBINSON is pastor of Farmville Presbyterian Church. He can be reached at pastorfpc@centurylink.net.