Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths. (Luke 3:1-6)
It is easy to forget that each time we encounter the scripture, we hear God speaking. The Church believes that the bible is the living word of God. When we read it we are not reading what God said, we are hearing what he is speaking to the Church, and to us individually, in every generation. This week, as we hear John the Baptist cry in the desert, "Prepare the way of the Lord! Make straight his paths!” I think we need to remember that God is speaking to us, personally through those words.
Am I preparing my heart to receive the Lord? If you listen to popular Christmas songs, you will notice that the anticipation in secular Christmas is about presents. But, as followers of Christ, this season is not about waiting to see what is under the tree. We are not celebrating Christmas yet, even if we are decorating and listening to Christmas music. We Catholics are focused on something much greater. We are focused on preparing for the coming of the Lord. We are preparing for the end of time. That will inevitably come in one of two ways. One, we may die a natural death or, two, we may be alive when Jesus returns. This season of Advent isn’t just about remembering that Jesus was born. Advent calls the Church to take the words of John to heart and to ask, “have I prepared for the end, for his coming or my going?”
Yes, there is definitely an element of joy in that. Come on. God has literally come to save us. He became man, bore our sins to the cross, paid the debt we owed and conquered death so we can have eternal life. Celebrate! But, this season, as much as that is part of it, is not just about celebration. This season of Advent is about preparation.
Jesus, who came and did all that, will come again. Are we preparing for that? Are we joyfully awaiting the coming of the Lord? Are we making his path to our hearts easy and straight, or does he have to swerve around all of the other stuff, the things we are holding on to that have no place in the life of a Christian? This week, as we reflect on John’s words, we need to remember that John spoke them to prepare the hearts of the people to receive Christ. We need to hear them today and ask, ‘are we prepared?’ If you are like me, there is still stuff you need to work on.
Here’s my suggestion. We give things up for lent, right? The idea is that we make sacrifices of things that aren’t necessarily bad as a way to deny ourselves. We make penitential offerings. As a Church, we are actually supposed to do that every Friday, too. That is a good thing. This advent, maybe we need to consider something similar. Perhaps we need to look at our lives and take stock of the things that are a part of them that shouldn’t be. And in this season of joy, it is probably time to joyfully give some of these things up. Take the obstacles out of the Lord’s way and invite him, unhindered, to come to your heart.