Christmas is more than eating, drinking and making merry

2nd Sunday of Advent (B) 2020

“Prepare a way for the Lord” cries the prophet Isaiah. This is such a familiar advent phrase. Hundreds of years later the same phrase is repeated by Mark the evangelist, “A voice cries in the wilderness: prepare a way for the Lord, make his paths straight.”  Clearly the idea is that the Lord should get here as soon as possible; nothing on the road should delay him. 

I remember years ago, in fact 1983, I was on pilgrimage to Fatima by coach from England. It was a long way. Eventually we found ourselves in Spain. The roads were long and straight and so it didn’t take us long till we got to the Portuguese border. But once we got into Portugal, our progress slowed right down. The coach had to cross several valleys. It took ages to cross each one, because we had to drive down into the side of the valley around hairpin bends till we got to the bottom. Then we crossed a river before ascending up the other side, around more hairpin bends till eventually we got to the top. This then was repeated at every valley. It took us ages to get to Fatima. Today, of course, the roads are much better in Portugal. There are flyovers over valleys, so that you can get to your destination quickly.  

Now imagine the human heart as a road way. And Christ wants to come into our hearts anew. We are told that John the Baptist came to prepare a way. He did this by proclaiming a ‘baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.’  Sins are the one thing that will delay Christ coming into our hearts. They are like obstacles along the road, like so many road works. If Christ is to make progress along the way then we need to prepare our hearts. The Church knows this which is why it offers us a way to prepare. It offers us the sacrament of reconciliation, or confession. It is the God-given means the church uses. By confessing our sins we make straight the way for the Lord; we remove the obstacles that block him. 

The most important preparation we can make this Christmas, isn’t so much putting up the Christmas tree, or the decorations, making the Christmas pudding or writing cards, but  something else entirely; it is the preparation of our hearts and minds. Someone who prepares in this way, who gets rid of the obstacles in his or her heart, will surely enjoy Christmas much more than someone for whom Christmas is just about eating, drinking and making merry.  Christ is coming to set us free from our sinful ways. From the things that make us unhappy. He is coming to fill us with his love and to give us a peace this world can never give.  These are truly great gifts. They are not wrapped up in fancy paper and you cannot see them, but they will last forever and give us a joy that no earthly present could ever give. 

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