“The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,
"See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
`Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,'"
We often hear that Advent is a time of preparation. But to prepare the way of the Lord is not the same as preparing for the holidays, at least in the way the culture seems to pressure us. Getting ready for the holidays has the feel of taking an already busy life and ratcheting it up several notches. We prepare extra food, we prepare our houses to receive extra company, we prepare to attend annual parties and gatherings, we prepare lists of gifts to buy, and we prepare to deal with extra traffic around the mall, and shopping, punctuated by periodic holiday lattes to keep us going.
There is an extra anxiety this season. It is the message that in addition to holiday preparations, there are deeper issues afoot. Our world is rife with conflicts in Israel and Gaza, not to mention Ukraine. I suspect all of us have personal concerns that weigh heavily as well. How do we prepare the way of the Lord in these places?
As we prepare for this life, the heavier the world feels. Between the real freneticism of our daily lives, undergirded by a sense of general anxiety, it is hard to feel centered or even hopeful. We would not be likely to start a description of our days as, “the beginning of good news.” It may mean the call of the prophet Isaiah to seek the wilderness is timelier than ever. It may be that the very person we need to spend time with is a bit rough around the edges, wearing odd clothes and eating a strange diet. We might need to join John the Baptist in the desert.
The wilderness gives us space to step off the merry-go-round of our schedules and the daily news cycle. It is only in this stripped-down space that we can be reminded of who we are, what we are waiting for, and how to best prepare. The desert has the blessing of being a place where preparation is not about adding and assembling but is about stripping away. And John the Baptist reminds us that we need to be invited to turn in that direction.
How do we prepare the way of the Lord? The word prepare has as its root, to pare. It means to trim by cutting close or to make ready. It generally is thought of as reducing something little by little. It is a wonderful image for Advent. I can do something little by little. I am not likely to change everything overnight. Each of us can choose one small thing each day to help us pare down and create space to receive the Christ child. Our sojourn to the desert can happen here and now, before we take vacation, or the kids are out of school. I suspect those little efforts help turn our hearts and minds to all that is so very good in our lives.
Peace, Beth +