A voice cries out:
‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all people shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’
This week we’re reading in Everyday Sacrament:
- This is My Body, Given For You
- A Litany of the Dirty Work
- The Focal Point
. . .
Preparing. Less than one week till Christmas. We all feel it, the snowballing rush toward the end, the express-shipping last-minute purchases, the packages piling by the door, the cards spilling out of the mailbox, the hundred to-dos scribbled onto the already long list.
It’s go time.
A dear friend of mine is preparing for the birth of her baby, any day now. The final weeks of pregnancy are a time zone unto themselves, a planet of preparation in which nature takes over and nesting takes on a life of its own. I watch and wait with her, wondering what the week will bring.
And I remember that waiting for a new baby is exactly like waiting for Christmas.
We think we know what we’re getting into. We think we’ve done all we can to do prepare. The big date is circled on the calendar. All our efforts and energy are directed 100% toward its culmination.
But the real work is what we cannot prepare for.
The sleepless nights, the fumbling of feeding, the endless demand of energy, the cries and the clamor for our attention. This new life, this helpless child will demand everything of the adults around it. Every child born has done this in turn, wailed this same cry, asked to be held, comforted, fed, cleaned, loved. Every child born has turned the world upside down by the simple arrival of a new living breathing needing human being.
The Christ Child was no exception.
Because Isaiah’s words warned us what would happened if we prepared for his coming. Everything would be turned inside out. Mountains laid low, valleys raised up, rough lands made smooth. The geography of Incarnation is disorienting by its nature: everything looks different now. Nothing works the way we thought it did.
This week we prepare – or we think we prepare – but God will break in and upheave everything again.
This is Christmas’ promise: to change everything.
Can we prepare for this? Not at all. But like expectant parents, the ones who think they know what lies ahead, the ones who prepare a way in the new wilderness, we can ready ourselves to welcome Another.
Everything is about to change, again.
Are we ready?
. . .
Let’s chat over wine or chocolate – like any good book club!
- What has been the focal point of your Advent? How has it helped keep you steady?
I know I keep saying this, but I deliberately did nothing extra during Advent this year. It was the best Advent yet. I do not think this is a coincidence.
Too often we equate spiritual growth with doing more. But I am learning that doing less often teaches me the truth I need. Focusing on peace and quiet this Advent gave December a calm I have never known before. Consider me converted to the ways of those who plan and prepare in November.
- What was the best part of your preparation during Advent?
The best part of preparing ahead of time was that it helped me get into the proverbial Christmas spirit at the end of a Scrooge-like year. I found that doing all the shopping early made way for more generosity in Advent. I had time and energy (and love!) to give more to charities, organizations, and people for whom I might not normally have made space n the usual December rush.
Giving gifts is not my usual love language, but I felt my Grinchy heart growing in sizes to make space for the symbolic gestures of love-enfleshed that presents can bring. Which is, in fact, Presence.
(Also, despite my best efforts, I still have plenty to do to prepare for Christmas. Gifts were bought but not wrapped, Christmas cards addressed but not mailed, packages prepared but not shipped. So humility enters in, as always. I can never prepare enough, and that’s the point. Advent and Christmas are not of my doing.)
How about you? Leave your thoughts on preparing in the comments below.
. . .
If you want to read more about preparing…
- Here’s my favorite post on Mary and what she might have been preparing for: Mary of the Third Trimester