Advent was not part of my church experience growing up. I really didn’t know what it was all about until a handful of years ago. Since participating in the observance of Advent in the last 10 years, I’ve come to appreciate the beauty of this penitential season. Advent is a 4 week series of reflections that remembers the first coming of Christ through the Nativity story while it reminds us to stay watchful for the second coming of Christ. Advent calls us to slow down and to focus on why we are remembering and celebrating. Before we can truly appreciate the celebration of Christmas and Immanuel, God with us, we must prepare our hearts through the observance of Advent.
Even still, with the busyness of life around me, it’s hard to focus myself and give the full attention that Advent deserves. So preparing my heart to be ready to hear and receive the gifts of Advent are necessary.
Preparing the way for Advent leads me to think about John the Baptist in the Gospels. He was a voice calling out in the wilderness-
“Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. And all the people will see God’s salvation.” Isaiah 40:3-5
John’s mission was to prepare the people to receive Jesus. The Preparation he called them to was repentance.
I believe that’s how we prepare the way for us to receive God’s gifts during Advent. Preparing the way means repentance through examining our hearts.
This past week while at home for Thanksgiving break, one of the ways we prepared for Christmas was to clean out some closets for unwanted, unused, and broken stuff. We got rid of clothes that were too small and worn out, and we, well, I organized drawers and closets to straighten out what had gotten messy and out of order.
We got rid of several bags of stuff, and once it was over, I was able to take inventory of what kind of items were needed for these growing kids of mine!
John the Baptist is calling me to do the same thing in my heart.
What is it in my life that is unused, broken, needs throwing out so I can make room for what I need. I can’t see what I need when there’s too much spiritual or emotional clutter blocking the way. I can’t receive the gifts God is waiting to give me when my life is blocked by sin.
When John is quoting Isaiah to make straight the paths, for valleys to be filled in, mountains made low, and rough ways made smooth, he meant get rid of anything that is getting in the way of God’s revelation of Himself to you.
Is there anything that stands between you and God? Is there any sin?
Even more obscure and subtle, are there negative attitudes towards another person? Unforgiveness? Unresolved reconciliation? Fear?
What are the quiet, unfinished issues that sit in the corner of your heart content to remain unmoved and undisturbed while they fiercely take root in your spirit?
Those are the sins John called the people to repent of so they can experience Jesus. Those same sins are the ones we need to repent of so that we can experience Advent in a fresh and meaningful way. Otherwise, we’ll be subject to another holiday season of shopping, decorating, baking, wrapping then rinse and repeat while not really experiencing the Hope, Peace, Love and Joy promised to us through Immanuel.
Won’t you join me in preparing the way for Advent this holiday season through repentance and self-examination?
Make ready your heart, make ready your home, make ready the people of God through repenting of what stands between you and Jesus Christ.
Father, I confess the sins, attitudes, fears and issues that are cluttering my life and creating obstacles between myself and experiencing the fullness of Your Presence. Please forgive me, and remove these obstacles from my spirit and my life as only You can do. Prepare my heart to receive your hope, peace, love, and joy in order to experience the fullness of Christ as we remember His First Coming and are eagerly awaiting His Second Coming. In Jesus Name, Amen