“And then shall He send His angels, and shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven.” Mark 13:27

Advent – the season of “preparation.” But what are we preparing for? Until recently, I always thought of Advent as the time to prepare for capital-C “Christmas.” Certainly all of that celebration requires preparation – music rehearsed, gifts bought, cards addressed, cookies made, and on and on. But that’s just the trappings, the secular Christmas that often has nothing to do with Jesus’ birth and message.

Then what are we really preparing for? Not for Christ’s ACTUAL birth; that happened long ago, and our yearly celebrations are merely commemorating that sacred event. Instead, it’s about two things, I think: preparing our hearts, minds, and souls to hear God’s voice in and around us in this very moment, and preparing ourselves for the Second Advent – the day when Christ comes again.

Ironically, the holiday season can be the hardest time for me to hear God’s voice, even as I’m daily humming carols that invoke God’s name. Everything is too loud and covered in layers of glitter and frosting.

In this context, Advent is necessarily about finding ways to hear the message of God above the din. For me, that requires some unplugging; unplugging my phone so that I might have silent nights of contemplation. Unplugging the colored lights so that I can be dazzled instead by God’s light in those around me. Unplugging my notions of what Christmas is supposed to be and telling myself what it should be: a yearly reminder that God already was made flesh, already walked among us, already bled and died in the ultimate act of grace and redemption. And that God has promised His people that He will come again to gather us all up and reunite His chosen people.

God is ready to make us His vessel at any moment, but are we prepared for that? Advent poses that question, and gives us daily opportunities to answer in the affirmative.

Lord, use this Advent season to prepare me to be Your servant. Help me to hear Your voice and give me the strength to answer Your call every day. Amen.

Stephanie Jass, Ph.D. | taught at Western Michigan University, Kellogg Community College, and Adrian College