Christmas decorations and fir branch lying on notes sheet | Ramil Gibadullin

I cannot believe that I am about to celebrate my second Christmas in Palma de Mallorca and it seems as if I arrived on the Island a couple of days ago. This is how time flies. The Advent season is upon us again and this marks the beginning of the Christian year. The overarching message of advent is of preparation for the coming of the messiah. This is where the message of John the Baptist becomes important.

John came as the forerunner of the Messiah, he was not the messiah himself and there was that confusion of his identity in the early days of his ministry. He was one of the greatest Israelite prophets and people often mistake his identity for that of the coming messiah. What did he come to do as the forerunner? He came to prepare people for the receiving of the messiah hence his gospel was that of repentance. He pointed people to Christ not to himself.

Preaching on Sunday, Linda Cade who is one of the Lay Readers at St Philip and St James Anglican church has this to say, "There are two aspects to John's message...repent and prepare." People in many parts of the world are busy with Christmas preparations. At our home Caroline and our three boys are busy decorating the house and updating the shopping list. I am also busy writing Christmas messages to friends and relatives. The city authorities are busy beautifying the streets and market places with street ights. Shops are advertising Christmas promotions. Churches are also busy preparing for Christmas carols. Everyone is busy with Christmas preparations.

This is how significant the Christmas season is, but was this the type of preparation John the Baptist was talking about? According to Linda Cade, "John the Baptist would have been very surprised with our preparations because he was talking about a quite different kind of preparation." He lived in a world where there were no Christmas trees, Christmas cards, Christmas shopping, and Father Christmas. He lived in a solitary world where his diet was just locusts and honey; his fashion, clothing of camel's hair with a leather belt around his waist. His message for preparation was simply, 'repent for the kingdom of God has come near.'

There is no problem with the forms of preparations we are doing today but amidst the busyness and activity of preparing for Christmas with cooking, baking, shopping, buying and writing cards, wrapping presents and putting up decorations, let us take the time to prepare our hearts for the coming of Jesus into our world and into our lives. In as much as we do our material preparations let us balance it with our spiritual preparations as well. As Linda Cade puts it, "let us give a daily time to self-reflection and self-examination before God, allowing him to speak into our minds those things about which we are ashamed, those things we regret, and those things that cause us remorse."

As we prepare for Christmas let us remember the homeless, prisoners, those in hospital, and those experiencing wars and conflicts. I shall conclude with the collect for the Second Sunday in Advent:

O Lord, raise up, we pray, your power and come among us, and with great
might succour us; that whereas, through our sins and wickedness we are
grievously hindered in running the race that is set before us, your bountiful
grace and mercy may speedily help and deliever us: through Jesus Christ
your Son our Lord, to whom with you and the Holy Spirit, be honour and
glory, now and for ever. Amen.