FROM preparation by the Word and Church of God we are led to
the yet deeper truth of preparation by Christ Himself. The inward
and spiritual presence of Christ is needed if we are to be ready for His
outward and visible coming. The motto of the Sunday is, therefore,
“Preparation by Christ for Christ.”
THE EPISTLE. PHIL. iv. 4.
The Presence of our Lord is the source of all Christian preparedness,
for “except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.” The
realization of Christ’s presence is :—
A. The Source of Joy.
The importance of Christian joy is seen in S. Paul’s double command,
“Rejoice—and again I say rejoice.” Its possibility lies in the words “in
the Lord,” for only in the service of Christ and in connection with Christ
can we be glad in a world of so much sorrow. In union with Christ the believer
gains the joy of Christ in the unbroken consciousness of Divine love.
B. The Source of “Moderation.”
The moderation here spoken of is not in meat and drink, but in temper
and spirit, and it is enforced by the nearness of Christ’s Advent.
This will make us yielding as to our personal rights, the end being
so near when all these things shall lose their value; patient under insults
and annoyances all so soon to be forgotten; gentle
in the expression of opinion, when He is so near Who knows all things
perfectly and will prove us all to be more or less mistaken; ready to resign
the world’s joys, ambitions, gains, and engage. ments, since when He arrives
all this poor world will go.
This argument may well make us gentle and yielding in spirit, since
He is coming Who was the very King and Prince of gentle. ness. Let us hold
nothing very tight except the Gospel, Christian truth, and moral principle.
Let us be ready to drop all that is ours, so that we hold fast all that
is Christ’s; ready to drop earth that we may the better grasp heaven.
C. The Source of Freedom from
If Christ is at hand to reverse our hasty judgments, He is at hand also
to hear our prayers. In such a Presence anxiety is a sin, and a thing altogether
un-Christian. The passage contains a prescription and a promise.
(1) The Prescription is Prayer.
“Let your requests be known unto God.”
It is an universal prescription applying to everything, for nothing
is too large or too small to bring to God. It covers all we desire
(prayer), all we fear (supplication). It includes “thanksgiving,”
for God will give little to those who seem to think that He has given them
(2) The Promise is Peace.
The peace which comes from prayer is of God’s bestowing, and like Him
Who bestows it, for it is “the peace of God which passeth all understanding.”
It is a peace which shall hold its own in strength and shall dwell in the
heart, like a garrison keeping all enemies far away. It is peace
which the heart can feel, and the mind can accept, and it comes “through
Christ” and Christ alone. From Him comes peace with God, and from
Him comes the peace of God.
The source of all these benefits is the presence of our Lord.
Our joy is “in the Lord,” our moderation because “the Lord is at hand,”
our peace, “through Christ Jesus.”
THE GOSPEL. S. JOHN i. 19.
That Christ alone can prepare us for His Advent is strikingly illustrated
by the testimony of the great herald of the first Advent. S. John Baptist
confesses his own inferiority, and seeks to lead his hearers to Christ.
A. His Inferiority in Dignity.
In three humble negatives S. John Baptist disclaims all distinction.
With the greatest emphasis he repudiates the very thought that he himself
was the Messiah for whose Advent he was sent to make preparation. No words
can be stronger—"He confessed and denied not; but confessed, I am not the
Though in very truth the Elias which was for to come (Mal. iv. 5), he
dare not advance for himself so high a claim. Though named by our Lord
“a prophet and more than a prophet,” he can see in himself no resemblance
whatever to the prophet foretold (Deut. xviii. 15), and often interpreted
as a forerunner of the Christ. Such humility is a true mark of those best
fitted to prepare others for Christ; they stand by and let Him pass. If
He alone can do this work, they must of necessity be humble.
B. His Inferiority in Office.
He does not think of himself as a speaker, but as a voice; not as a
messenger, but as a message. He regards his baptism of water as merely
preparatory, a confession of the need of more perfect cleansing. He looks
upon himself as unworthy to perform the office of a slave to the coming
Master. His work was the humble duty of preparation, and the need for even
that had passed away, for the Christ was standing among them though they
knew it not, and his own final message was about to be delivered— “Behold
the Lamb of God.”
"Christ standeth among us"—this is the last message of the Church before
the great day of His coming. By His unseen Presence alone can we be prepared
to celebrate His first Advent or to welcome the second Advent. All personal
effort, all use of the means of grace provided in the Church, are only
effectual in so far as we cling to the personal Saviour.
In harmony with all the teachings of the day we are taught to pray for
the special power of God by which alone we can be made ready to meet our
A. The Source of Power.
This is not in ourselves, but in God. In the Salisbury Use this collect
is addressed not to the Father, but to Christ, and thus illustrates more
completely the subject of the Sunday, viz., “preparation by Christ for
Christ,” and the words “come among us” have their true Advent meaning The
unseen Presence and power of Christ—His inward Advent, in fact—are the
sufficient preparation for us in view of His outward Advent.
B. Our Need of Power.
We need power to enable us to run the Christian race set before us.
We need “bountiful grace” for help against our sins, and “bountiful mercy”
to deliver us from our inward inclination to sin—i.e, our “wickedness “—for
by these we are sore “let and hindered.” We need this “speedily,”
for our race is nearly run, and “the Lord is at hand.”
C. Our Plea for Power.
This is “the satisfaction” or atonement of Christ our Lord, by which
alone we obtain remission of our sins and are made partakers of the Kingdom
of Heaven. By the atonement of Christ we are able to plead both for grace