What are we preparing for this Advent?
“Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low. The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” (Lk 3:5-6)
My mom was the queen of the one-liner! She could always wrap up a situation in one sentence that left you with no ammunition to argue. Whenever I would get all wound up about something, she would put her hands on my shoulders, look into my eyes and say, “Sheri, don’t make a mountain out of a mole hill; trust in God, he can do anything!” That always helped me put things in perspective.
The upcoming season of Advent is all about perspective and preparation, and this line from Luke’s Gospel inspires me to ask myself two questions. The first, what am I preparing for this Advent? Am I more concerned with preparing for a holiday or the birth of a King? If I don’t have my focus right, my December mole hills can feel like mountains. The second question is, what does “prepare” really look like? It’s an action-packed verb, isn’t it?
The prophet Isaiah’s words from Luke’s Gospel really answered those two questions for me. We are preparing for the one who will level out the peaks and valleys of our days. We’re preparing for the one who will straighten out all the winding messes our sinfulness gets us into. We’re preparing for the one who will smooth out all of our bumps and bruises with his amazing mercy and grace. We aren’t preparing for a party or a feast; we’re preparing for our salvation.
The great news is that this preparation requires the opposite of action-packed frenzy. The preparation needed this Advent is stillness, quietness and a sincere invitation. God is sending his Son to do all the work; our task is to simply pause and await the arrival of the infant King who will come into our life and do all the things Isaiah promised he would do. Our job is to be still and stop making mountains out of mole hills and accept the gift of the level, steady, straight and abounding love of the Father.
Pray: Pray this little prayer each morning as you begin your Advent days. God of love, show me how to be still and await patiently the coming of your Son. God of time, I ask you to manage my schedule so I can answer your invitation to spend peaceful time preparing and thanking you for the gift of your Son and the salvation he offers me. God, make my path lead straight to you.
Study: Study the characters in the Nativity story. Each week of Advent choose a different character and read about them. Learn something new about the angels. December is rich with feasts that celebrate Mary, the Mother of God, or perhaps study St. Joseph and his humble, peaceful obedience.
Engage: Gather a few friends and make a commitment to pray together during Advent. Attend a parish Advent event together, gather in each other’s homes, meet 15 minutes before Mass or work or during your lunch hour; don't make it a mountain … just gather and pray together.
Serve: Prayer is often the greatest gift or service we can offer, so during Advent choose five people who are struggling. Commit to praying for those people by name each day during Advent. Then, as Christmas draws near, send each of them a card telling them of your prayers for them