While preparing to lead an Advent reflection, I was searching for a poem or quotation on ‘preparing the way’ to reflect on as a group, but I just couldn’t find the right thing.
It dawned on me that part of what makes this initial Advent directive – “prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his pathways” feel a little odd for me is that we’ve just heard from Jesus the Sunday before Advent began, “about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” We always look ahead at this time of year to Christmas and the infant narrative of that manager scene, but let’s not forget that Mary and Joseph had no idea what was going to happen. Those shepherds were just out with their flocks like any other night when the messenger came to them and the Magi, with all their wisdom, weren’t entirely sure who or what they were searching for.
How can you prepare for something if you have no idea when or where it’s coming? Most of the usual activities which require us to ‘prepare’ come with an understanding of when we will need to be ready, yet scripture seems quite clear that we cannot know when the coming will be. It would seem counterintuitive, until we begin to see that God—the Christ, is continuously breaking into our time and space. Not a single moment in time but infinite moments of incarnation.
So how then can we prepare and make God’s way more direct? Moment’s just like this are good examples. Creating spaces when we can contemplatively examine ourselves, our actions, our intentions, and our hopes become part of the way in which we make it just a little easier to connect with God and for God to connect with us. Listening for God in the silence, allowing ourselves to develop a satisfaction for the silence; a harmony with that hope.
While so much has been written about waiting for God, I like to think that much of the time God is actually waiting for us. Waiting for us to learn how to see and think and feel and… love. Waiting for us to articulate our joys and our struggles. Waiting for us to remember who we are. And all along the way, God pushes through, like slivers of light in a darkened room, just enough, to say yes—right there—I’m right there with you and I love you. I’m holding you so you don’t have to hold yourself.
In our busy lives, the greatest gift is time. God knows this. Can you find a little time to examine where you are, how you have cared for yourself and those around you? Can you teach yourself, little by little, to look for God in the still small moments—to see Jesus in those around you? Advent then, becomes so much more about preparing ourselves to be the way for the Lord, practicing what it means to love ourselves and one another so we can receive the coming of Christ, over and over again, so that we can catch up to God who is already waiting for us with open arms.