I've been reading a book called Preparing for Jesus by Walter Wangerin. It's about - yep, you guessed it - preparing for Jesus! Y'all are so smart! Here it is. I bought it last year but didn't read much of it last year because I got it when I was looking for an Advent devotional to use with the kids. My kids are a little young for this book. But I started using it myself and I really like it.
Here's an excerpt that I thought was especially good. This is from December 8th.
Luke 1:28-30: And Gabriel came to Mary and addressed her thus: "Hail, O favored one, the Lord is with you!" Now, she was greatly troubled at what he said and wondered what such a greeting might mean. But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary. for you have found favor with God."
"This, too, must absolutely be a part of our Christmas anticipations: that in the presence of divinity we are "greatly troubled." . . . . . Nevertheless, fear has been forgotten - both by the world and by Christians in general. We rush toward angels unafraid. We approach the blazing furnaces of the seraphim with no more apprehension than children who reach laughingly for fire. This fearlessness is not a sign of the character of God, as if God has changed throuh the centuries that divide us from Moses and Isaiah, from Zechariah and Mary and the shepherds. Rather, it is a sign of the character of this present age, of arrogance or of ignorance, whether or not one admits to a living God.
Mindlessly do the bells of secular celebrations jingle for Christmas. Meaninglessly do carols repeat their tinny joys in all the malls of America. No richer than soda pop is every sentimentalized Christmas special on TV. Fearless is the world at play with godly things, because Godless is its heart.
If God is a laughing Santy, why should we be afraid?
Secular arrogance says there is no God. Arrogance, in fact, assumes that humanity itself - its dreams, its talents, its visions and accomplishments - is the nearest thing to God the world will ever know. Therefore, the "true meaning of Christmas" is assumed to be the occasional human kindness which, yes, may very well be symbolized by a nice old gentleman. . . . .
Of course it is right to rejoice in tidings of great joy: that the mercy of God now crosses the gulf which our sinning opened between ourselves and our Creator. Yes, it is right to fall down in perfect trust, fearlessly, before the Christ child and to worship him. Yes, it is right to delight in the song of angels, the peace that God brings to the earth. Yes, yes, and therefore do we cry in confidence, "Fear not! Fear not! For God hath banished fear!"
Ah, friend, but arrogance assumes that we deserve this blessed state. There is neither grace nor gifts for those who deserve what they get - and no true joy at the receiving.
And ignorance forgets the sin without which mercy means nothing, without which the baby Jesus is just a baby after all.
Listen: the light of Christmas shines into darkness! We should be the walking dead. What we deserve, in fact, is the absence of God - a cold and cosmic isolation - for this is our sin, that we chose to be gods in the place of God. In the day we disobeyed we began to die. We should, therefore, be dwelling in a land of deep darkness, mistrust, hatred, hopelessness, finality, and death. . .
But even as we feared, so do we rejoice when we hear the light say, "Don't be afriad. I have not come to punish but to give you life. I am no judge. I am the Savior born for you."
Life instead of death? That is a wonder! And the wonder is all the more intense because death had been expected - because death had been right!
The mercy of God? Is not this a dazzling wonder?
And isn't Christmas wonderful after all?"