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The Hay is in the barn

If Advent is a time of preparation, of waiting, of anticipation...what is the time after that called?

Many churches, ours included, have a dedicated worship service to “hang the greens” -- to decorate and prepare our worship space for a celebration of the birth of Christ -- but what now? After all of the build up and excitement, after the joy and celebration -- do we just throw it back in the box and wait to prepare again next year?

There’s no wonder that many folks admit to feeling “seasonal blues” this time of year when the abrupt ending of Christmas has come and gone. It’s almost like that slow motion feeling of getting in an automobile accident as the last presents under the tree disappear. Has another year already passed by so quickly? Where did the time go? Why are the stores already selling Valentines candy?

Perhaps photographs are the only thing that has the power to make time stand still. We flip them digitally or in analog and recollect, remember, reminisce and here we are today -- future versions of ourselves from those moments in time. And we are well aware that we will never pass this way again.

Without trying to downplay the real depression that many feel, as pastors are prone to do, one of the things that gives me hope is the fact that the “hay is in the barn.” This phrase means that our preparation mattered. And that whether we feel it or not, we are ready to take the next step.

The first time I heard this phrase was two weeks before the Charlotte Marathon several years ago. I had finished fourteen of my sixteen weeks of training when something popped near my kicker muscle. I felt certain that all the preparation was worthless until a trainer eased my anxiety with the phrase - “the hay is in the barn.” After some shocking electrode fun and physical therapy, I was able to do what I set out to do on race day.

My hope this year is that we will see that our preparation mattered. As we sang, ‘O Come, O Come Emmanuel,’ and ‘Silent Night,’ as we reread and retold the story of Christ’s birth, as we prayed and lit candles, and celebrated communion -- we were preparing for all that this new year of ministry holds for us individually and collectively.

The hay is in the barn. We are ready. Let’s do this.

For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders.

And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice

- Isaiah 9:6-7a

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