Prepare the Way

Sunday, December 8

12-8By Charmaine Chvala-Smith of Independence, Missouri, USA

In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

—Matthew 3:1

Today, lots of people seem allergic to the word, “repent.” Perhaps it’s been abused and yelled at us from the television or pulpit. Perhaps we think ourselves perfect with no need to repent. Perhaps we don’t like the idea of a creator to whom we are responsible. Or perhaps we just want to ignore the fact we are imperfect, greedy, or mean-spirited.

Whatever the reason, it’s a shame so many resist the word and its offering, because the word “repent” is an invitation. It means to turn or turn back to. John is saying, “Look! Turn around, don’t miss it. The kingdom is about to come near. You’ll need to turn from other preoccupations and life as usual to see or experience the one who will “baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” For John the kingdom of heaven (God’s reign) is synonymous with Jesus, and they are about to make an entrance.

So why is this turning needed today—by us? We already know the story of Jesus, isn’t that enough? I think John would ask us, “Where is your life focused? Is it on what God’s loving presence is doing near you? Is it on practicing the radical acceptance and love that Christ taught? If not, then I invite you to turn. Turn from the things that would consume you and…Look! There is another way to live life that brings you near God’s presence!”

John’s role was to prepare people to see what was happening among them—to give a message of hope. That is also the purpose of Advent. We are invited to a time of honest self-reflection; a time when we turn from our over-full lives and create a manger-sized space where we will let God’s reign of hope come near. Prepare yourselves…prepare the way!

Prayer for Peace
We accept your invitation, God, to turn toward your Kingdom. As we turn from our crowded place and make room for Jesus, we have hope. May we share that hope and Christ’s peace with the waiting world.

Spiritual Practice: Hope
Close your mind to troubling thoughts from the past by placing them in God’s generous hands and letting them go. Let God speak to your fearful heart. Think of your hope for the future—open windows in your mind through which you can see compassionate actions. Reflect on the approaching hope of the Christ child. What is your part in the reason for that hope? Rejoice in the Hope of the world.

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will create a manger-sized space in my life.

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