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Spiritual Reflection First Sunday in Advent

Prepare the Way

“The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” (Luke 3:4 NRSV)

The four Sundays in the Season of Advent have a common theme: the preparation of humankind to receive the Divine. Traditionally the first Sunday reminds us of the angel Gabriel’s visit to Mary and the announcement that Mary would conceive and bear a son. The second and third weeks feature John the Baptist filling the people with a sense of expectation. On the fourth Sunday, we hear of Mary meeting with her cousin Elizabeth, who is also pregnant with the child who will grow up to be John the Baptist.

The Gospel of Luke quotes from the prophet Isaiah a phrase that sums up the message of Advent: “Prepare the way of the Lord”. Preparation is about becoming ready, making space for something new, being receptive to what is to follow. So it is with preparing the way of the Lord. The coming of the Lord is a matter of grace, a gift freely bestowed. But if we haven’t prepared the way, cleared a space, made ourselves ready, how can that gift be received?

Where are we to prepare the way of the Lord? Where else but in our heart of hearts, at the very core of our being? The way of the Lord is to the centre of our being. All else flows from the Lord’s loving presence at the very centre of our lives. 

When are we to prepare the way of the Lord? What time do any of us have but the present moment? Now is the time to make ready the way of the Lord, to prepare our humanity to receive God’s divinity. 

How are we to prepare the way of the Lord? John the Baptist is clear on this point: we must repent for the “forgiveness of sins”. Surely our greatest sin is pride, placing ourselves ahead of others, and at the centre of our lives where the Lord alone should dwell. 

Why should we prepare the way of the Lord? Because the destiny of our eternal souls depends upon receiving through faith the saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.”

Advent is the most countercultural of the Christian seasons. While our fellow consumers become more frantic as they count down the shopping days to Christmas, our task is exactly the opposite. Ours is not to add more things to our lives, but to clear a space for what is truly needed; not to add to the clamour of our culture, but to be quiet and expectant. 

Advent is a time for us to step back from all our striving and lay down the exhausting struggles with which we have burdened ourselves for so long. Advent is a time for getting out of the way so the grace of God may flow freely into the depth of our souls, filling us with the ever-flowing Spirit, lifting us gracefully into the presence of God.

James J. Rawls, On The Way: 100 Reflections on the Journey of Faith (WestBow Press, 2018)

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