To prepare for something means we believe what we have been promised will come true. Preparation involves a tremendous amount of trust. In the Gospel for the Second Sunday of Advent, John recalls the words of the prophet Isaiah. He knows that someone will be called to make a way for the Messiah. He has heard the words of the prophet over and over again. Now, John hears those words as a personal call to be the one who prepares the way.
John is versed in the lives of the prophets and has some inclination about what the call to be a prophet will cost him. He knows that he must set aside the normal parts of his life and dedicate everything to the mission of preparing the way for the Messiah. His time in the desert, his meager diet and his simple way of dressing are all signs that he is doing the preparatory work for his mission.
His time in the desert separates him from the clutter of every day life. This gives him the opportunity to hear the voice of God more clearly. Making conscious choices about eating and dressing simply take away any outward distractions so that he can be inwardly more ready.
During this time of Advent, we are asked if we are willing to prepare a way for Jesus. Do we have enough trust in God and ourselves to believe He would call each of us to be His prophets in the world? Are we willing to set aside some of the daily distractions of our ordinary lives so that more of our energy could be used to enflesh Jesus for the world? It seems almost impossible to set things aside during this time of year, which is often cluttered with busyness. Can we make choices to live life more simply so that God has more room to shine forth through us? Do we trust God enough to listen for the voice of the Holy Spirit to guide us through this Advent time?
The images in the Gospel show us where this mission will lead us. How many paths need to be straightened out, how many valleys need to be filled in, how many mountains and hills need to be made low and how many winding roads need to be made straight?
Have you encountered any rough ways that need to be made smooth? I hope that you’ve been living in such a way that your answer to all those questions is yes. We have seen these circumstances that need to be made better and we are willing to do what we can, through the power of God, to prepare a way for the coming of God.
Even though some people confused John for the Messiah, he wasn’t confused at all. He knew his place and mission, and he committed his life to fulfill that mission in service to Jesus. Week two of Advent opens with a reminder of the invitation we have and the mission that has been set before us. In what ways are we sitting back and waiting for someone else to be the prophet? What excuses have we made to remain complicated and distracted? Why do we still choose to believe that our wisdom is better than God’s?
Our time of preparation is moving quickly, and our chances to say yes to the invitation are in front of us. In what way are we radically willing to show Jesus to those around us? At what table will we sit or in what group will we spend time that will cause others to talk, not just for scandal but for the clarity of the mission?
“O people, behold, the Lord will make the glory of His voice heard in the joy of your heart” (Isaiah 30). Wouldn’t you love to be an instrument of God in this revolutionary mission?
Father Wester is pastor of All Saints Parish in St. Peters.
Second Sunday of Advent
Sunday, Dec. 5
Psalm 126:1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 6
Philippians 1:4-6, 8-11