“… prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God… and the glory of the LORD will be revealed… for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” (Isaiah 40:3-5 NIV)
There’s a song we sing during the Advent season called “Ready the Way”. It’s not a great song, granted, but since during the Advent season we’re also reading many wonderful and poetic passages from the book of Isaiah, it’s pretty easy to overlook the less-than-excellent music. For we must realize what we are meant to do: get ready for the coming of Jesus.
Jesus is always wanting to come to us. He came in the Old Covenant to his people Israel through the Patriarchs, the Mosaic Law, and the Prophets. He came to us in the Incarnation, that definitive coming of God to us in the God-Man, Jesus, whose coming we celebrate at Christmas. He comes to us now, in his Word, in the Sacraments (especially, of course, in the Eucharist). And he comes to us even in other human persons, where his Presence – as in the Host – is often hidden. He will also surely come to us in the future – that second coming of Jesus for his own which he himself promised to those who eagerly await him.
He indeed always desires to come to us, to be with us, for he is a Lover who longs to be united with his Bride. He stands at the door of our hearts, gently knocking, patiently waiting for us to open that door – even a little – and invite him in. Sometimes our opening is reluctant, fearful of being taken advantage of, fearful of being disappointed as we have so often been in the past. Should we find the will and the courage to open our hearts – just a crack – he never barges in, for he knows how skittish we are and he is always a gentleman. He comes instead gently, patiently, willing to woo our affections, to give us a chance to do things at our own pace, to “taste and see that the Lord is good”. Indeed, he comes often in hidden ways, just as he did two thousand years ago in Bethlehem, ways that we see only in hindsight: “I didn’t realize it, but God was speaking to me/helping me”. He comes often in unexpected ways through unexpected people and circumstances, just as he did in Bethlehem. Not in a stable with animals all around perhaps, but in unexpected circumstances nonetheless, places where he asks us to trust him, to find out how good he can be.
So how do we “ready the way” for his coming now, in this Advent season? We clear out the impediments, the sin that causes us to pull back in fear and shame (think: Confession). We choose to spend time – at least a little, but regularly – in prayer, that communion with our Savior, Shepherd, and Father, thus directing our attention beyond the busyness and preoccupations of everyday life. “Preparing a way for the LORD” is anticipating his coming to us, expecting it, for he has promised it.
This Advent, try to look for him in your day, your activities. Pull your thoughts back from time to time from being hijacked by all the commercialism, the noise and glitz that seem to accompany Christmas. Savor your loved ones and friends occasionally. Stop and smell the Christmas tree and wonder at all the lights which herald the coming of the Light of the World. Receive the gift he is offering – the gift of his coming, his Presence, his love.