"97, 98, 99, 100 ... Ready or not, here I come." And so the game of hide and seek began.The forsythia bush was always a favorite place to hide ... until Uncle Walter came around the 4th to trim all the bushes. I don't really know if children today still play this game, but I know I enjoyed it as a child.

"Ready or not, here I come," is what our oldest son said to us on this day in 1980. It was a Sunday morning, and I was not really ready. Then, again, are we ever truly ready for anything, I ask myself?

Christmas is how many days away?! Are you ready? What does it mean to be ready? Gifts purchased and wrapped? Cookies baked? Menu prepared? House cleaned and decorated? Bags packed? Christmas sweater on? Cards and letters mailed? What am I missing?

Ready or not, Christmas will arrive the beginning of next week. Ready or not, tomorrow will start at midnight tonight. Ready or not, today will be today, and next week will be next week. Ready or not, time rolls on ... like waves on the sea shore ... and we can either catch the wave and sail with it, or be caught by the wave and pulled under (and pray there is a life guard on duty).

When the angel Gabriel gave Zechariah the news that he would have a son, and that he was to name him John, he spoke of John's purpose in life. "He will go before (Christ) in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous, to make ready for the Lord a prepared people." (Luke 1.17) When he began his ministry, what was his message? "Repent, because the kingdom of heaven has come near!" (Matthew 3.2) And then, pointing toward Jesus he said, "Here is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1.29)

How do college football teams get ready? Recruitment, conditioning, practice, planning. Do things always go as planned? Perhaps a better question is, "Do they EVER go as planned?" In Homiletics class my professor always said that we should know our sermon so well that, if a bird flew into the sanctuary in the middle of the sermon, you could make it an object lesson. Conditioning, practice and planning do not control everything that happens, but they do make a person ready to manage the circumstances.

The message of Gabriel on Christmas and John on the banks of the Jordan are one and the same. And their words are what we need to hear to be ready. "Here is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world." Whether we are ready for him or not, he comes. He comes on Christmas to give us hope and a future. He comes as Immanuel (God with us) to turn us (repent) into his word and church to give us strength and guidance. He comes in Word and Sacrament, giving us what we need to be ready ... making us into people prepared for whatever is to come ... molding us into people who can help others manage whatever comes their way.

And the best news of all? Christ never stops coming to us, seeking to make us a people prepared ... even when we say we are too busy, or our priorities are different, or we know it all already, or whatever, ... because he is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world ... ready or not!