Melville Scott, The Harmony of the Collects, Epistles, and Gospels, Second Edition, 1903. Public Domain.
THE DUTY OF PREPARATION
THERE is no break in the sequence of the Christian year, for the last Sunday after Trinity, as the Sunday before Advent, is more of Advent than of Trinity. Thus we have already received the Advent promise, already we have prayed for the stirring up of our wills, and we are ready to enter upon the season of preparation. The season of Advent might, indeed, be even more fitly named Preparation, and this preparation equally to be made in view of the Christmas Communion, of death, or of the Judgment Day. But, name it as we will, the Advent message is shortly this—”Prepare to meet thy God,” and that of the so-called First Sunday is our personal preparation.
THE EPISTLE – ROMANS 13:8-14
S. Paul here teaches us how to prepare for the Advent of Christ.
A. By the Preparation of Love.
We must be ready to pay all our debts in full, and be ready above all to pay the debt of love, and be always paying it, though never able to clear it off. This is most necessary, for this one debt includes all indebtedness. Neither God nor man has any further claim on us than this, for “he that loveth bath fulfilled the law.” Love cannot kill those it loves, rob them of their property or good name; love cannot covet, for to covet is to love self more than others, which he cannot do who loves his neighbour as himself.
B. By Knowing the Time.
To know the time is to know the shortness of the time, the possibilities of the time, the uncertainty of the time, and its inadequacy for the solemn work to be done in it. Fear should lead us to know the time, and hope also, for we are not only to be driven by the fear of judgment but drawn by the hope of salvation. “Our salvation is nearer,” then let us hold fast for a little longer.
C. By Using the Time.
This life is the night to which eternity is the morning, and the night is far spent. We are to cast off the works and ways of this life’s darkness that none of these be upon us when the morning dawns. We are to put on the armour of light, the holiness, that is, which is bright as armour, and safe as armour, that wearing it, and fighting in it to the last, we may be welcomed by Christ at His appearing.
D. By Putting on Christ.
His merits our hope, His life our example, His character as the clothing of our spirits. Then, indeed, shall we be so clothed in light that Satan cannot hurt us, and Christ shall recognise us as His own. Thus shall we be fully prepared for His coming.
THE GOSPEL – S. MATTHEW 21:1-13
This tells for our example and our warning how Jerusalem prepared to meet her King, that we may prepare to meet Him as He draws nigh to His Holy City, the Church.
A. The Preparation by the Disciples.
Two disciples were sent to make preparations for Christ’s entry, very simple but very significant preparations, showing both His great humility and also His kingly claims. They made preparations in much ignorance of all that was to follow. So do Christ’s ministers now prepare His way, very ignorant of the great day for which they labour. Let us help them with like readiness for their Master’s sake. The Lord has need of many hearts to bring Him back in triumph.
B. The Preparation by the Multitude.
These prepared His way as best they could, casting off their garments and cutting off the branches for His carpet. They prepared also a sweet song of salvation for the Saviour King. Many such simple hearts are better prepared than the wise and prudent, for to desire salvation is the great mark of readiness, and Hosanna, “Save now,” is the song Christ longs to hear.
C. The Preparation in the Temple.
Only the Temple was unprepared, for it was given over to gain and merchandise. Let not the love of money keep us from the love of Christ. Those who have most to lose are most likely to lose Christ. May Christ in His mercy rather use the scourge than see His House of Prayer turned into a den of robbers: may He cleanse our hearts of cherished sins and make them homes of prayer.
THE COLLECT – A PRAYER FOR PREPARATION
This is to be our great preparation prayer throughout the Advent season until Christmas Eve. It is to prepare us for Christmas, but if we are ready for any coming we shall be equally ready for every coming in life, or death, or judgment.
A. For grace to make the preparation described in the Epistle—i.e.,
To cast away the works of darkness.
To put on the armour of light.
To know the time of this mortal life.
B. For grace so to make use of Christ’s first coming in great humility as described in the Gospel, as to meet Him with such joy as that with which they went forth to meet Him when He came at the first to Jerusalem. These Christ’s two comings are connected. By the first He came to purchase salvation by His death, by the second He shall come to bring its fulness.
May we so live by faith in the Christ Who came as to be ready for the Christ Who is coming. May we so polish and brighten our armour that we may go forth with it not rusty but bright and glistening to meet every foe, and to be found more than conquerors through Him that loved us.