And you, child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High
for you will go before the Lord to prepare the way…

—Luke 1:76

Each week in Advent has a watchword and a Biblical figure with which it is associated. The word for this second week is “prepare,” and it is linked with John the Baptist, the voice “crying in the wilderness: prepare ye the way of the Lord” (Luke 3:4 KJV). During these weeks before Christmas we are to be preparing a place for Christ to come into our midst.

Much of this preparation is watchfulness. “Be on guard,” Jesus says to his disciples—and to us (Luke 21:34). We are to be always on the watch and to pray as we wait for Christ’s return. As Paul writes to the Ephesians:

In all circumstances, take up the shield of faith…praying at all times in the Spirit with all prayer and supplication. To this end, keep alert with perseverance… (Ephesians 6:16, 18 ESV)

Our Advent preparation means paying attention and staying alert, awake, on guard—and in prayer—so that the coming of Christ will not take us by surprise and so that we will be ready and able to recognize the kingdom of God when it breaks into our fallen world, not only at the end of time—though certainly then—but also in all the seemingly insignificant but manifold ways God shines light in our darkness.

In the circle of the church year, Advent follows a long season of Ordinary Time in which the busyness and dailyness of our lives can distract us, making us forget to pay attention or to remember that we are living in hope and expectation of Christ’s coming.

That is why we need Advent—it reminds us to pay attention, to be on guard, to keep watch that we might be ready for Christ when he comes, whether that be at Christmas; or right here, right now (this moment is the moment, remember?); or—come quickly, Lord Jesus—when he comes again.

—an edited excerpt from my book