A voice cries out:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”
In our Advent Gospels, we always hear of John the Baptist and his mission to prepare for the coming of Jesus. And part of this call is an echo of what Isaiah has foretold and what John the Baptist reaffirms in John 1:23:
“I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness,
‘Make straight the way of the Lord”
This Advent time calls us to make straight a path for the Lord in our hearts as we prepare to celebrate his nativity. Now, there are so many ways the Church teaches us that we can do this: reflection on the Advent readings, examining our own consciences to make space for Jesus, entering deeper into prayer and many more. I think these are all amazing ways to prepare ourselves for Advent. I think this article serves more as a cautionary note for me to remember that the highway isn’t the most important thing; Jesus is.
What was striking to me when I reflected on this passage was that for me, I felt like I was continually sabotaging my own efforts to make a path for the Lord. What do I mean? Basically, there were two extremes I think we sometimes oscillate between: between digging up paths that were already laid down because they weren’t ‘straight’ or ‘clean’ enough or overtly adorning the path such that the focus is on the way I construct the path rather than the purpose of constructing the path. In short, I was more focused on the task of creating the path then ensuring that the path will allow Jesus to enter my heart.
This meant that I was more worried that I couldn’t be still in prayer for 15 minutes instead of only 10 minutes. This meant that I was beating myself up for not being able to resist my own desires instead of focusing on God. This meant that I was doing all these spiritual exercises as an obligation I felt necessary to get Jesus into my heart. And I think many of us fall into this trap, not realising that as we prepare for His entering into our hearts, He also desires to enter our hearts. Because I’ve obsessed so much over the path, I forgot to see the Infant Jesus in front of the path, waiting for me to look up at Him. I forgot that this was a God who became man in a small manger, visited by shepherds and not by kings, persecuted, crucified and died for the sake of the world. This was a king who didn’t care for the riches or the perfection of the path but rather, a king who cared more about me; a king who would help me create this path through His Spirit working through me.
At the end of the day, this call of Isaiah and John the Baptist was a call for repentance not for merely repentance’s sake, but to be able to allow and accept the birth of Jesus into our hearts. And so, in this Advent time, the question for me is not in the various ways I can make straight the path of our hearts. Rather, the larger question I am called to ponder on in this Advent time is how I am called to know and embrace the Infant Jesus in my heart in this coming Christmastide.
© 2017 Christ Centered Conversations/Gregory Adrian Gunawan