Advent is a powerful word, coming from the Latin adventus, which means “the arrival.” Last week, Jesus invited us to watch, and stay awake; second, to pray attentively; and third, not to overindulge or allow the external distractions to prevent us from entering into this great season of hopeful quiet anticipation and preparation for the coming of the Lord anew into our lives and hearts.
This Sunday we encounter John the Baptist who challenges us to prepare the way of the Lord by raising valleys, lowering obstacles and making straight the way of the Lord.
Obviously he is not talking about road building but uses those metaphors to speak about our lives and hearts. What low places need to be filled in? Where is there hopelessness or despair that could be diminished or reduced by hearing a few encouraging words from another person? How do we reach out to someone who seems to be in need?
We are surrounded by secular holiday songs that may be cute, interesting even meaningful and novel but may not always helpful in preparing for Jesus, preparing for the coming of the Lord. I remember when about a week before Christmas we would begin to hear Christmas carols and hymns, not just instrumental versions of these timeless hymns and carols on the radio. Today holiday music can be all around us in stores, malls and certain radio stations, songs with interesting lyrics and themes including the infamous ‘Grandma, got run over by a reindeer.”
Within the church there is a rich history of Advent carols, “O come, O come, Emmanuel,” “On Jordan’s Bank,” “Waiting in Silence,” “A Voice Cries Out” and so many more songs to inspire us this Advent season. Songs that complement this season of Advent will most likely not be heard on the major radio stations. The persistent person will seek them out in anticipation of hearing those wonderful Christmas carols and hymns that evoke strong memories like “Silent Night, Holy Night,” “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” along with many classical compositions of music. We have such a rich treasury of music that is hard to find at times except in church, in religious goods stores and of course, downloaded from online sources.
Matthew’s Gospel reminds us that John the Baptist came to prepare the way of the Lord, inviting us again to make straight the Lord’s path. What can we learn from John this year? How can we prepare?
Together we can prepare the way of the Lord by watching, praying, and carefully celebrating those pre-Christmas parties and holiday gatherings by seeking out ways to collect food, contribute to food kitchens or support homeless shelters; people who could truly benefit from being lifted up.
Father Larry Hendel, Pastor