Christmas preparations are looking very different for me this year. Normally, I’d be baking and planning parties and strolling with friends through winter-lit gardens. But I find myself staying home to avoid unsafe contact and searching out COVID test sites, investigating state travel restrictions and counting isolation days. Because what kind of Christmas will it be, if our boys can’t come home?
There is a good side of all the restrictions, though. Instead of stuffing my heart with Christmas-y doings and hoping to find satisfaction in them, I find my heart filled with longing. Longing for my boys, yes. But I find that longing opens my heart to long for the Lord. And the work I must do to ensure their safe passage home sheds light on the readings this Second Sunday of Advent.
Let’s Work to Prepare
A voice cries out:
In the desert prepare the way of the LORD!
Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!
Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill shall be made low;
the rugged land shall be made a plain,
the rough country, a broad valley.
Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
and all people shall see it together;
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken. (Isaiah 40:3-5)
As Isaiah pleads: Prepare the way of the Lord! Maybe it’s wilderness between you and him. Maybe there’s no way forward in sight. So build a highway for him to come in on. Fill in the valleys, level the hills. Get rid of any obstacles that stand in the way — whether it’s unconfessed sin, or busy-ness, or anxiety, or worldly distractions. Spend time this week and deal with them. For then you’ll be able to see the Lord coming, in all of his glory.
That’s what I want! More than anything, in this crazy year of stripped-down lives and fear and deprivation … I want the Lord here with me. I want to see him when he comes. And I’ll do whatever it takes to get him here, like I’ll do to see my sons.
Let’s Go Out and Proclaim
Which takes me to the second theme of these readings. If the first was “Prepare!” the second comes from it: “Proclaim!”
Go up on to a high mountain,
Zion, herald of glad tidings;
cry out at the top of your voice,
Jerusalem, herald of good news!
Fear not to cry out
and say to the cities of Judah:
Here is your God!
Here comes with power
the Lord GOD,
who rules by his strong arm;
here is his reward with him,
his recompense before him.
Like a shepherd he feeds his flock;
in his arms he gathers the lambs,
carrying them in his bosom,
and leading the ewes with care. (Isaiah 40:9-11)
As soon as arrangements are set for the boys to get here, I’ll be telling everyone they’re coming. In the same way, Isaiah urges us (and John the Baptist modelled for us): get up on your bandbox, get out your megaphone, and tell everyone around you: “Here is your God!” As St. Mark writes, this is “the beginning of the gospel [literally, ‘good news’] of Jesus Christ the Son of God” (1:1).
This is good news indeed, and it should be told. The PC crowd might insist that we shush our public “Merry Christmas.” But let’s find ways to announce Jesus, who is this season’s reason. Don’t be afraid to cry out! the prophet says. God is coming in strength, his reward with him. Ready to feed and gather and lead us with care.
As we enter this second week of Advent, listen to the Word: Prepare his way! Proclaim his coming! Consider whether you’re ready to receive him. Is your heart cluttered with cares or with sin? Are you afraid to tell others about him? Take it to prayer; set a time for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. And prepare and proclaim with joy. For here comes your God!
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Take the readings to heart
Be watchful this week by continuing to meditate on the readings of the second Sunday of Advent. Download the reading checklist and instructions at this link:
Here are a few additional things to consider as you read:
First reading (Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11)
- The Judean wilderness is not a flat desert but a rough expanse of hills and valleys and deep crevasses it would be easy to get lost or to hide in. How does that impact your understanding? How might it apply to your life?
Responsorial Psalm (85:9-11, 11-12, 13-14)
- What is the good news proclaimed in this Psalm? Describe what is promised, that the Lord will bring.
Second reading (2 Peter 3:8-14)
- What “day” are we waiting for, that Advent and Christmas point forward to?
- How does St. Peter say to prepare?
Gospel (Mark 1:1-8)
- What kind of preparation did John the Baptist proclaim?
- To get to the Jordan River from the Judean countryside or Jerusalem required planning and effort. Yet “all the inhabitants” went to him. How can you prepare your own heart to respond as they did?
God bless you — and help you prepare and proclaim him — as you read his Word!
© 2020 Sarah Christmyer