Zechariah said to the angel (upon hearing the announcement of the birth of John), "How can I be sure of this? My wife and I are very old."
Advent is a time of preparation. It is a time to prepare our hearts and lives for the coming birth/return of Jesus into our world. Henri J. M. Nouwen tells the following story:
"I remember several years ago becoming so pressed by the demands of teaching at Yale that I took a prayer sabbatical to the Trappist monastery at Geneseo, New York. No teaching, lecturing, or counseling – just solitude and prayer.
"The second day there, a group of students from Geneseo College walked in and asked, ‘Henri, can you give us a retreat?'
"Of course at the monastery that was not my decision, but I said to the Abbot, 'I came here from the university to get away from that type of thing. These students have asked for five meditations, an enormous amount of work and preparation. I don’t want to do it.'
"The Abbot said, 'You’re going to do it.'
“'What do you mean? Why should I spend my sabbatical time preparing all those things?'
“'Prepare?' he replied. 'You’ve been a Christian for forty years and a priest for twenty, and a few high school students want to have a retreat. Why do you have to prepare? What those boys and girls want is to be a part of your life in God for a few days. If you pray half an hour in the morning, sing in our choir for an hour, and do your spiritual reading, you will have so much to say you could give ten retreats.'
"The question, you see, is not to prepare, but to live in a state of ongoing preparedness so that, when someone who is drowning in the world comes into your world, you are ready to reach out and help. It may be at four o’clock, six o’clock, or nine o’clock. One time you call it preaching, the next time teaching, then counseling or later administration. But let them be a part of your life in God."
May God teach us to live in a state of openness and preparedness, so we can minister (be the presence of Christ) to each other and to the world.
Prayer: Gracious God, thank you for being with us. Thank you for holding us as we move into the month of December. Guide our lives. Help us to be your presence in this world. Breathe through us the very love and life you dream for this world. Help us to prepare our lives well, during this Advent season. In the hope Jesus offers us, Amen.
May this devotion provide you with a moment of faithful reflection and care. You are involved in ministries of justice and witness, in ministries of standing up and standing with people working to create better systems and communities, in ministries of learning and searching and researching to become more aware and awakened, more technologically savvy and proficient, more virtually and personally present in your churches and communities and world. Each of us who serve as members of your Wisconsin Cabinet write these devotions in grateful prayer for you – for sustenance and buoyancy, for strength and courage, for safety and just actions, and for faith and love to be full and fulfilled in your daily lives. God’s grace and blessings, God’s challenge and healthy discomfort, God’s Spirit and energy be with you, in the hope Christ offers us all.