Are you ready for Christmas? I have fond recollections from childhood of my grandmother readying for Christmas by weeks and weeks of baking, boiling and kneading her way to December 25th. The kitchen and spare bedroom of her simple house would be stacked high with Tupperware containers filled with high calorie treats. Each year we could expect lady fingers, date nut balls, divinity, and my favorite – peanut butter fudge. Just before Christmas day she would buy a few coconuts (we never could grow any in Putnam County) and grate them for a homemade coconut cake. One year my brothers and I decided to help grate the coconuts but failed to properly wash up before plunging into the task at hand. Instead of a pearly white color, the cake looked more like a mud hut on the side of the creek. Needless to say the cake never made it to the table.
Another year my grandmother was inspired to try something new. She had read a recipe in a magazine for rum balls. Like any good southern lady of her era, my grandmother was a staunch tee-totaler, but she had heard you can cook the alcohol out. She dispatched my father to go in the dark of night, so no one would see, and purchase a bottle of rum to make rum balls. Like most grandmothers, she did not always work with measurements so she added rum to the mixture according to what she thought looked right. Take my word for it – minors had no business eating those rum balls! When we took the lid off of the contraband confections, eyes would water and the elderly would wheeze.
Nowadays it would appear folks have been getting ready for Christmas since August. What I fear with is that too soon many will be ready to be over Christmas, and that is too bad. I believe that part of the joy of Christmas is getting prepared, getting ready.
John the Baptist may not be the first name to come to mind when we think of those important people concerning the birth of Christ, but the Gospel of Mark reminds us that John is essential to the Advent story. Why? Because John echoed the message of Isaiah: Prepare the way of the Lord (Isaiah 40:3; Mark 1:3).
How do we prepare; how do we get ready? The traditional themes of Advent can be a helpful guide: peace, hope, joy and love. We prepare by marking our thoughts, words and actions in peaceful, hopeful, joyful and loving ways. Jesus incarnated this in his life and teachings and has called us to do the same.
You and I have words and works to offer to the racial divisions disrupting unity.
You and I have words and works to offer to the hateful rhetoric exchanged in political discourse.
You and I have words and works to offer to those languishing in fear; searching for a higher vision.
You and I have words and works incarnated fully and completely in the one named Jesus.
We can prepare or we can give up. I say let us get ready and not give in to all those other voices that distract and disrupt. Indeed, now is the time to prepare to live the life Christ has called us to live.
Peace, hope, joy and love be yours,