Christmas Preparations

“Prepare the royal highway; The King of kings is near!

Let ev’ry hill and valley | A level road appear!

Then greet the King of Glory | Foretold in sacred story:

Hosanna to the Lord, For He fulfills God’s Word!”

          For some people, Christmas preparations began right after – I don’t know – maybe after Labor Day? Walmart seemed to get their Christmas displays out about that time. In our house, there was always a debate about how soon was too soon to decorate for Christmas. Usually we waited until only a couple of weeks prior to Christmas; after all, the “twelve days of Christmas” don’t start until Christmas Day, itself. But think of the time and the effort and the money that people seem to lavish on preparing for the Christmas holidays. Is that what we’re supposed to be getting ready for in this Adventide?

“God’s people see Him coming; Your own eternal King!

Palm branches strew before Him! Spread garments! Shout and sing!

God’s promise will not fail you! No more shall doubt assail you!

Hosanna to the Lord, For He fulfills God’s Word!”

          When I was younger, the Advent season was much like the Lenten season; a time for reflection and repentance. The colors were the same – purple; and the rubrics for worship including the prohibitions against singing “Gloria” until Christmas Eve. While I appreciate the shift in Advent to a season of “anticipation” – waiting for Christ’s return while preparing for his first coming – I feel that we have adopted a more secular approach (notice how early churches trying to get their “Children’s Christmas Pageants” done earlier and earlier?) toward Christmas. Christmas may be about Jesus, but too often, it does not focus on him.

“Then fling the gates wide open | To greet your promised king!

Your king, yet ev’ry nation | Its tribute too should bring.

All lands bow down before Him! All nations, now adore Him!

Hosanna to the Lord, For He fulfills God’s Word!”

          When you follow the pericopes (the assigned readings for each week), the last Sunday’s of a church year all point to Jesus’ coming again. “Watch…be ready…prepare” are all the imperatives of the weeks moving toward Advent; but they also become part of the “watch-words” of Advent, too. For Christians, we “watch” and “make ready” and “prepare” so that we might delight in Christ’s return; for unbelievers, there is nothing joyful on the way…for he comes with judgment. So, Advent is more in preparation for Jesus’ return than it is for Christmas preparations – or, should we say, it should be…

“His is no earthly kingdom; It comes from heav’n above.

His rule is peace and freedom | And justice, truth and love.

So let your praise be sounding | For kindness so abounding:

Hosanna to the Lord, For He fulfills God’s Word!”

          May I suggest that while you may hang your “stockings with great care, in hopes that St. Nick might soon be there,” take the time to make a true, Christmas preparation. Put down your copy of The Night Before Christmas, and pick up your Bibles and read Luke 1 and 2; remember what was prophesied then in order to be prepared for what is yet to come.

          “Hosanna to the Lord, For He fulfills God’s Word!”

[Prepare the Royal Highway was written by Mikael Franzen (1772-1847) and found in Lutheran Service Book 343]