Friday, December 04 2020
Advent is a time for preparation of the arrival of Jesus Christ and Christmas, but it is also a time when we deeply miss those whom we love but can’t be with due to the Covid Pandemic. We feel emptiness in the pit of our stomach that never seems to go away. This feeling is very palpable during the holidays. We long for those days when we were together.
Last week, I set the stage for our reading from Isiah: Jesus Christ came from heaven to live a fully divine and fully human life. God knows what it feels like to be lonely because Jesus cried out on the cross the prayer that we say from time to time. “Why have you forsaken me,” Jesus exclaimed when he felt separation from God. Mark’s Gospel says, “the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight” (Mark 1:2-3). You will notice an echo in the Old and New Testament readings today. The voice of God cries out through the prophets and through the Gospel. “Prepare the way of the Lord.” God comes to us in the person of Jesus Christ that we might know the way, the truth, and the life. There is lots of darkness and loneliness in the world, but God comes to bring us light.
Advent is the time of the year that we prepare for the coming of that light. It is the hope of something better to come that marks this time in history. The hope is that a light will come in our darkness. A messiah will soon come that will rid God’s people of this terrible separation that they feel. I wish it was just as easy as opening a present on Christmas morning. To prepare the way of the Lord, we must surrender to God's control. We need to be intentional about preparing for the coming of the Lord. We need to carve out some time for prayer and worship. Faith just doesn’t arrive on Christmas Eve. In many ways the rush and the push of the holidays makes it even more difficult to come into the nearer presence of God. The need to make room for God in our lives is a particular challenge for us on Christmas. The challenge is to get our lives aligned with God. Once we have made a decision to put Christ number one in our lives, we do not have to deal with the constant conflict of interests. The one who was born at Bethlehem will be the Lord of our lives, if we are willing to make room for him. All else that crowds our lives is measured by the standard of God’s love and falls short.
A defining event in the history of Judaic history was the destruction of Jerusalem in 587 BCE and the exportation of its inhabitants. As the Babylonians conquered Israel, the people of God were given the stigma of being punished for their sins. They were devastated by the intolerance of this foreign power to their religion. Forty eight years later a new power emerged. Cyrus, ruler of the Persians, conquered the Babylonians in 539 BCE. Cyrus was a tolerant ruler. In 538 BCE, he would allow the Jewish people to return to Jerusalem and Judea and resume practicing their religion and traditions, as long as that they recognized his authority. Today’s Old Testament reading comes at this point in the history of the Israel when people were longing for things to return to how they once were. “Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God...” A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God” (Isaiah 40.1-3).
Times are very tough for us as they were for the people of Israel. Many of us are feeling that emptiness in the bottom of our stomach. Being separated from our loved ones and our church community is difficult. Many of us are feeling the pain and anxiety that this pandemic has caused. Please quiet your heart, pray for God to come, and make room for God in your heart. God will be with us very soon and before we know it, we will all be back together.
In Christ’s love,