“Hark the glad sound! The Savior comes, the Savior promised long; let every heart prepare a throne and ev’ry voice a song”. Words from a well-known Advent hymn. “Prepare my heart, Lord Jesus” are words to another. That’s what we’ve been doing throughout this season of Advent – asking the Lord to keep us prepared to celebrate his birth and to greet him in faith when he comes again in glory. And, we know how he does it. He keeps us prepared by speaking to us in his Word and by the power of the Gospel keeps us with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.
Now at the time of this recording there are four days remaining until Christmas Eve. The season of Advent is coming to a close. Our celebration of the Lord’s birth is at hand. Personally, you might have some things to do yet - shopping maybe, or house cleaning, or cooking or travel plans. This is a famously and maybe unavoidably busy time of year, to be sure.
Precisely for that reason, however, I encourage you to do something in the next four days. Spend a little time in each of these last days leading up to Christmas alone with your New Testament and read the accounts of the Savior’s birth from the Gospels. We’ll be hearing them read during the last Sunday of Advent and the Christmas services. Read them ahead of time for yourself, as you ask the Lord to prepare your heart to focus on the gift of Christ this Christmas. Remember the mother of Jesus, as she surveyed the events of that blessed eve and “treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19) Let that example be your guide as you sit alone – or with your spouse and children – and meditate upon the birth of Christ, Biblical account by Biblical account. And here, if it helps, is a suggested order:
Reading #1 – Luke 1:26-38. This is the Gospel reading for this upcoming Fourth Sunday in Advent. Mary, a faithful believer who knew that someday the Savior would come, is given amazing news. She would be the mother of the Messiah! She’s stunned – even a little fearful at the angel’s presence and message. There she stands, like the shepherds would later, as a sinful human being in the presence of a holy representative of the Almighty. But, as the Lord in grace continually reaches out to all of us to this day, the first message is, “Do not be afraid.” And Mary’s response again is one to be followed: “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.”
Reading #2 – Matthew 1:18-25. Next, put yourself in Joseph’s shoes. But as you read and ponder, don’t only put yourself in his shoes in suspecting foul play in his engagement to Mary when he hears she is expecting a child. Watch particularly how he listens to the Lord’s Word and how he responds. And pay particular attention to the names of our Savior that are mentioned in this account. He is indeed the one who saves us from our sins! Without him, we all would stand in fear before the Almighty! But, he enters our race and becomes one of us, to do what all of us should have done but can’t. He come to be perfect in our place. And he comes to die and suffer hell in our place. He comes to save his people from their sins. That means he came to save us. And, “God with us”! That means God is with you, and with me! Also, one more note about Joseph: we never hear him speak in the sacred record of the Bible, but we only watch as he listens to the Word and acts according to it. A good example indeed!
Reading #3 – Luke 2:1-20. This is the famous account that you recognize and perhaps even have committed to memory. Luke takes time to relate details of when and where and how in just the right time the Lord Jesus was born in Bethlehem, “just as they had been told.” Maybe we’ve heard it so many times that the syllables glide past us so poetically and easily that we may miss some of the truths simply because of familiarity. Read it slowly, pausing and pondering in your heart the beauty of the Great Gift that is ours at Christmas!
Reading #4 – John 1:1-18. John is a little more abstract in his inspired description of our Redeemer. You’ll notice that right away. He calls him “the Word” who “became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” And he calls him a “light” shining in the darkness. God communicates with us through his Word. God gets things done by the power of his Word. And here we have Jesus described as the Word – God’s powerful communication and connection with us in human flesh. We sing it in the carol, “Veiled in flesh the God-head see, hail th’ incarnate Deity! Pleased as man with us to dwell, Jesus, our Immanuel! Hark! The herald angels sing, ‘Glory to the newborn King!’” Read the verses of John’s account attentively, and treasure up and ponder the Word in your heart. Then, as a truth for life, memorize verse 16.
With our New Testaments in our hands as we pause in these busy days, prepare our hearts, Lord Jesus!