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Sunday, December 14, 2014

On Jordan’s bank the Baptist’s cry
announces that the Lord is nigh;
awake and hearken, for he brings
glad tidings of the King of kings!

Then cleansed be every life from sin;
make straight the way for God within,
and let us all our hearts prepare
for Christ to come and enter there.

Charles Coffin’s “On Jordan’s Bank the Baptist’s Cry”
(tune: Winchester New)
trans. John Chandler
from Glory to God: The Presbyterian Hymnal

The word preparation encapsulates a lot for me—nervousness, excitement, uncertainty. When I began working as an event coordinator with the Center for Life and Learning in 2011, the notion of “preparation” always combined all of those feelings. I anxiously awaited my events in the hope that I had prepared myself enough for whatever may have come. Sometimes I felt prepared, and sometimes I did not! You can only be so prepared for some things, as we all know.
In this hymn, John the Baptist announces for the preparation of our King. I wonder what the people of Israel thought when they heard this. “What can I be prepared for? How do I prepare my heart for something that I cannot see or know anything about?” We all know they had no hand in organizing this “event,” so I wonder what they felt. What did the word preparation hold for them?

Advent is a journey—remembering what anticipation and preparedness means to each of us in the form of a gift, the ultimate gift, which will free us from all strife. We can anticipate only so much of what God has in store for our lives; the people of Israel knew only of a messiah. What if during this Advent season our main gift was “preparation,” like it was so many years ago? Not related to preparing for the perfect gift for a loved one, or preparing for the perfect Christmas Eve dinner, but instead preparing for only one thing. I think it would look quite different to each of us. “Let us all our hearts prepare for Christ to come and enter there.”

Lord, on this day, I pray for your guidance during this holy time. Help me feel the sacredness of this time through the preparation of my heart and soul for your eternal majesty, so that when I wake up on Christmas Day, your love amounts to the greatest gift of all. Amen.

Written by Ashley Elskus, Director, The Center for Life and Learning

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