Advent is a time of preparing our hearts. “Prepare the way for the Lord; make straight paths for Him,” cried John the Baptist, fulfilling the words of Isaiah. To prepare, we need two things:
First, we must be awakened to our longings. It has been too easy to be lulled to sleep on our side of the pond, convincing ourselves that we do not need anything beyond wishes. If we are lucky, the rocking of our economic world can be a piercing jab into our sleepy psyches bringing us up to speed with the rest of the world. They are already very aware that life, even survival, is precarious and that we are indeed not in control. An African friend recently remarked, “Now America will know what the rest of the world faces every day.” From my daily conversations with people (as well as my own story) I am well aware that we do know suffering here. But what we are facing now is raw, unprotected vulnerability. The courage to embrace this may help us to awaken to our longings for a Kingdom we have never seen. Do we have the courage now to admit that we are exiles?
O come, O come Emmanuel
And ransomed captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear…
Second, we must repent. That is, we must change our minds. Just as the awakening to our longings works to open our hearts, repentance works to open our eyes. We must be willing to open up to something really, really new. We may long for God’s coming but will we recognize Him when we see Him? Will we open our arms in embrace when he challenges our gnarled clutching at certainties, and messes with our sacred order of worship? When leprous hands are the ones that are invited to offer His body and blood to the congregation? When He charges us to become as powerless and poor as He, in a world that loves its armies and its gold? Repent and believe the Good News! These are hard things but can be much harder for those of us who say, “we see”.
Prayer: Lord God, give us eyes to see you as you have come, and as you come now in every moment and will one day come again. Forgive our miserly hospitality towards others; we have been blind. Prepare our small hearts and give us courage to be emptied, that we may have room for you and all whom you bring with you.
Isaiah 43:19 See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.