Preparation Is Worth the Effort (Pastor James Scarborough)

Published 8:30 am Sunday, December 17, 2023

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Among the many things that this season of the year brings to my mind is the necessity of preparation for all the activities and gatherings that are part of our celebration of the birth of Christ. During the Thanksgiving season my wife put me to work taking decorations out of storage and putting them on display for us all to enjoy. As always, it took some time, effort, and adjustments but it is all part of the preparation that many of us involve ourselves in as we celebrate this beautiful and meaningful season of the year.
Gale has been working hard in recent days getting everything ready for the activities of this holy season: wrapping gifts, putting on a party for the church kids, and preparing the children for the annual Christmas play. It makes her already busy schedule fill to overflowing, but she gets a lot of fulfillment watching the little ones learn that church really is a fun place to be. The church always provides small gifts for the children and it is amazing how excited they get over the simplest things. On one of those occasions when the church kids were opening their little gifts, I saw a two year old little girl—in great anticipation of what was about to take place–carrying a cookie in one hand and a sweet cake in the other. After she consumed all that sugar, I’m glad we were not the ones who had to keep her for the night!
As we rejoice in the Baby that was born in Bethlehem so long ago, we should all remember that that secluded manger was not His destination, for He was on a journey that led Him to the cross to die for our sins. God perfectly prepared the way so that all that needed to take place for His plan to unfold was in place at exactly the right time.
If we survey the Bible and pay attention to the many things that transpired leading up to the birth of Christ, we can find preparations taking place at many points in time that allowed things to come together just as God intended. As we reflect on how the birth of Christ came about, we can better understand the words that Mary, the mother of Jesus, sang after hearing that she would bear the Christ-child: “His mercy extends to those who fear Him, from generation to generation” (Luke 1:50, New International Version).
The Bible includes prophetic preparations that were made as the birth of Christ was foretold long before it took place. Although those prophets that God used—Isaiah and others–did not live to see their prophecies fulfilled, their Spirit inspired words allow us to have confidence that Christ’s birth was not a mere earthly coincidence or an anomaly in nature; it was a marvel of God never to be duplicated.
God also used historical events to facilitate His plan. Most of us grew up being familiar with the beautiful words recorded in Luke 2 regarding the birth of Christ; Luke included in that description the detail of the decree of Caesar Augustus requiring everyone to go to their hometown to register. This was used by God in His preparation for Christ’s coming to earth and it resulted in Mary and Joseph being exactly where God wanted them to be at exactly the right time.
We must not overlook the preparation of the hearts and minds of Joseph and Mary as God gave them a most unusual assignment. Although it must have been an alarming experience, they submitted to God’s plan and we are forever blessed as a result of it all.
Without a doubt it is wise to make our preparations for celebrating Christmas. It is even more essential for us to allow God to prepare our hearts to be available for all that He wants to do in us and through us in response to what Christ has done for us.

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