Introduction

Prep Work Edition

November 27 thru December 24

"Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for Him."  -Matthew 3:3

Sandi and I love to walk and hike state and national parks.  Not long ago, we made several excursions through Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park.  On one of those hikes we set out to climb a massive sand dune.  We didn’t have a map, but we knew that somewhere behind all that sand was Lake Michigan.  As we began to climb the sand, my wife said what I had been thinking all along.  “I wonder how deceptive this is.”  Then she asked, “How many times do you think we’ll climb a summit before we see there’s another one in the distance?”

Up and down we went as we crossed the ridge of one dune after another.  Each time, we’d look down into a valley of sand and another great dune to climb ahead.  It took four deceptive cycles just to see water in the distance.  Still, there were several more dunes between the lake and the two of us.  As I made that trip, I meditated on the words of Isaiah, “In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord...Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low...And the glory of the Lord will be revealed and all people will see it together.” (Isaiah 40:3-5)

This issue of Grow Deep joins the pilgrimage of Christians in a trek we call “Advent.”  Year after year we prepare for Christmas at this predictably busy time of year.  We climb the challenges of our own making and then descend into the valleys afterward.  How many times will we climb before we find that place to rest and see our destination?  What will be different this season?  How can we prepare better and see Jesus more clearly as a result?

We call this Advent issue, “Prep Work”…inspired by the words of Isaiah in the Old Testament and echoed by John the Baptist in the New Testament.  Both Isaiah and John the Baptist lived in ministries of “unfinished business.”  Theirs were ministries to all of us “unfinished” people.  In my hike, I never touched the lake that day.  But that didn’t matter.  My real goal was to spend quality time with Sandi.

Advent isn’t about finishing.  It is about spending time with Jesus.  The devotional journey of this issue doesn’t end with Christmas.  Instead, it affords a great view of God’s promises with the best walking partner you’ll ever know.  Included in this issue are also some suggestions of ways for families to take their children and grandchildren along on this journey.  Helping children see Jesus is prep work well spent.  In fact, it’s the greatest gift you can give to a child.  The suggestions are noted each week between the introductory Thoughts for the Week and the Read and Reflect section.  They are titled, “Focus for Families.”

So don’t let prepping for Christmas wear you down and distract you on your journey this Advent season.  Take a few minutes each day to Grow Deep with Jesus.  Prepare the way for the Lord!  Prep Work is a great adventure with Him!

Pastor Bill

Advent 2016