As we wander through Advent, or perhaps as we charge through Advent, there is at least some small sense of preparation. Or perhaps a large sense of preparation depending on the level of intensity you carry through the month of December. It’s what we do as we look toward December 24. Or December 25. Christmas parties (which are really Advent parties if you want to know the truth), Christmas shopping, Christmas cooking, Christmas decorating. All that kind of thing that we do in Advent to prepare for Christmas.
It is perhaps ironic then that the prophet Isaiah has let people know they have some preparation to do. Some big preparation to do. Not preparing for friends. Not preparing for family. This is preparing the way for the Lord. What does that mean? We know the things we have to do to get ready for Christmas. Some folks even have a list that they are checking to make sure they’ve prepared all the things. But what would we do to prepare the way of the Lord?
I mean, that begs all kinds of questions, does it not? Apparently, we have some work to do.
Let’s see. The first thing that came to me was to wonder what exactly we would do to prepare the way of the Lord? I don’t think that means putting fresh linens in the guest room. I mean, maybe it does but I tend to think it is a little more involved than that. The other thing that comes to mind is to wonder what exactly I can do to prepare the way of the Lord? What in the world would the Lord want someone like me to do? Alrighty then, let’s break this out a little bit.
What can we do to prepare the way of the Lord? Well, that’s a long list. Part of that is related to how we interpret the ‘way of the Lord’. If we think in terms of preparing a path for the Lord, like a path into our hearts and minds, then we come back to the standard responses. Prayer, prayer, prayer. Did I mention prayer? I know I mention it a lot but only because I’ve come to believe that prayer is the cornerstone of whatever comes next in our faith. Prayer is the conduit for letting God into our lives.
Reading and studying the Bible is another part of preparing the way of the Lord. I know I mention that fairly often but it is also true. In the age of false and misleading information about the Bible spread across the the interwebs, it is important that we, as followers of Christ, actually know what the Bible says about different things.
The Bible is also known as God revealed, so there’s that, too. If we want to know God we must read, and study, the Bible.
Prayer and Bible reading and study, as ways of letting God into our lives, is also how we hear what God wants us to do. Which is another possible meaning for preparing for the way of the Lord. That is to say, getting our lives in alignment with the way God wants each of us to live. None of that can do that perfectly. If we could we wouldn’t need Christ and this whole Christmas business would be something of a moot point. It really would be all about Santa at that point. But because we fail and because we sin we do need Christ and so, your Christmas preparations can continue. The fact we can’t perfectly live the way God desires doesn’t let us off the hook for working at it and trying to live out our faith.
I’m not sure which meaning for preparing for the way of the Lord I lean toward. Maybe it’s both? We are called to prepare ourselves so that God has a way into our hearts. AND… we are called to live according to God’s way.
Why does all of this matter? The question I always want to ask is why doesn’t God just snap the fingers of his mighty right hand and make it all work? What do we have to do with any of it? Let God sort it out, right? If God is all powerful then why in the world does God need us to do anything?
It’s a fair question. I do believe God is indeed all powerful. I mean, God came to us in the person of Jesus Christ, that’s incarnation, so I’m thinking God can do pretty much anything. So why doesn’t God just make everything the way God wants it and we’ll just do what we’re told?
I don’t know that I have an answer for that but I suspect it has to do with God is not a dictator. God could have made us into robots and programmed us to do whatever it is that God wants. That would have been simple enough for God to do. But God wasn’t after a creation populated with mindless drones making humanity play out like some creepy sci-fi movie.
Instead, God wants us to follow God’s will as a response to the gift God has given us, and we are preparing to celebrate, in Jesus Christ. That’s why we’re not programmed to do whatever God wants, though many atheists would suggest that people of faith have been programmed and we are little more than mindless drones. They can think what they want but I don’t think I’m a mindless drone and I don’t think you are either. I just think we’ve been created to love God in a freely given response to God’s freely given gift of salvation through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. God doesn’t need blind obedience. God doesn’t need mindless drones. God does want our freely given love and devotion.