3A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. (Isaiah 40:3)
Tis the season! Do you believe it? It’s here—the turkey leftovers are in the refrigerator, the glass pumpkins are being packed away, and now we begin to drag out the Christmas decorations and enter into the mad scramble to get the perfect gifts before Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, Extended Black Friday, and the Last Minute Tuesday Sale that ends at 12:05 where you can still ship your Christmas gifts for a mere $29.99 sales are gone.
Sad, really…I mean, intellectually, we know that this is not what Advent is, It’s the time of preparation, rather than decorating. It’s the time of self-reflection rather than gift-buying. It’s the time of looking for the coming of Christ rather than planning the perfect Christmas celebration. It’s a hard line. We want so badly to sing Christmas carols and buy presents and get them all wrapped so that we can enjoy our Christmas Eve and we forget that Christmas isn’t really here yet. What?!? (Because you see, Amazon.com, Target, Macy’s, and their myriad of brother and sister stores do not, as opposed to what it appears, tell us when Christmas comes.)
Christmas comes when it comes. Christ comes when Christ comes. God comes, well, really, all the time. God has drawn near. God is waiting for us to do the same. God is waiting for us to draw near to God. Have you ever thought that in our scramble to prepare for Christmas, we have missed the notion that God is here, that God calls us to draw near to God rather than vice versa? So what does it mean to “prepare the way”? After all, good grief, I’m dragging out all those decorations! The neighborhood Christmas lights are beginning to appear. And I’ve got a party planned for two weeks from today. (TWO WEEKS???? ARE YOU KIDDING???) Prepare the way of the Lord…
What if this Advent in the midst of decorations and presents and flurries of activities for which we are not ready, we prepared the way of the Lord? What if all the groceries you buy included an offering to the food bank nearest you? What if every dollar you spent on gifts was matched in a donation to a clothing bank or something like that? And what if rather than spending more money on decorations other than what you already own, you made a donation to the nearest homeless shelter? (I mean, do you NEED that last poinsettia or centerpiece?) What if this first candle you light is the beginning of you preparing the Way of the Lord?
God will come when God will come. But we are called to prepare the Way. What if the Way is already there, laid out for us to follow and this Advent is the time that we are called to follow it, the time to draw near?
The Advent mystery is the beginning of the end in all of us that is not yet Christ. (Thomas Merton)