“Attention K-Mart shoppers…you have two minutes left to take advantage of our blue light special!”
If you grew up in the Midwest, you might recognize those words…in fact, as you read them, you could probably hear them coming across the crackling sound system at K-Mart stores. If not, let me tell you, when they announced a “blue light special”, a spontaneous sale that lasted mere minutes, it would cause you to stop what you were doing and pay attention.
As Christmas day draws near, so do the urgent messages of the retailers, trying to make that last minute sell. My email inbox has been flooded with messages promising “big discounts” and “overnight shipping.” You cannot turn the television or radio on without hearing about this year’s “latest and greatest” toy, gadget, etc. Social media ads seem to outnumber personal posts ten to one. The big countdown has begun…and they want to make sure you know it. And it’s easy to get lost in the “secular voice of Christmas”.
But there’s another voice…one that came two thousand years ago. It was also a voice of promise..of hope. It was a voice announcing good news, of salvation. It was a voice foretold in the book of Isaiah: A voice proclaims: In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD! Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God.
The voice that Isaiah spoke of was John the Baptist. His mission, as he preached in the wilderness of Judea, was to prepare and clear the way for the Lord. John called the people to repent of their sins and to correct every injustice.
Prepare the way of the Lord… These words of Isaiah foretold the message and mission of John the Baptist. This call to prepare the way of the Lord and to make straight His paths was urgent and is still urgent. God came in the Person of His Son when the Word became flesh. This is what we celebrate at Christmas. He still comes today. The Lord invites us to receive Him and His gift of salvation.
Make straight His paths…There are so many crooked paths that we can be tempted to walk. We can get off track in our Christian lives, falling into sin, walking along roads that deviate from our faith. There are many temptations to stray from the path of the Lord and to get lost along the way, to stray from the Gospel. During Advent, it is good to make straight the path of the Lord in our hearts by examining our lives, clearing the way for the Lord to act in us with His grace. It is important to look at our lives and to see where our choices and actions have not been in harmony with the Gospel.
Advent is a season of commitment and conversion in preparation for the Lord’s coming. It is also a time of joy since we are preparing for the celebration of Our Savior’s birth. In the midst of so much darkness in our world, we see light, the light of Christ that overcomes the darkness of sin, selfishness, and death. The Lord comes. He is not a distant God; He is Emmanuel (God-with-us). This is the cause of our joy, the true joy of Christmas that God not only exists, but that He comes to us and is close to us always.
Acts of charity are a good way to prepare the way of the Lord and to observe the true meaning of Christmas. There are many opportunities to give a gift to the poor and needy during this season, or to make a visit to someone who is sick or lonely. To practice acts of mercy, to reach out to those in need, is an integral part of our faith. To be mindful of those who are hurting and to bring them Christ’s love is a great way to live the true meaning of Christmas.
During these weeks of Advent, while we prepare for the celebration of Christmas, it is important that we hear the voice of John the Baptist. In this holy season, through the voice of John, the Church invites us to open our hearts to receive the Son of God. Unfortunately, we can easily lose the focus of faith during these weeks before Christmas and fall into the materialistic mindset of our culture. We must not allow the voice of John the Baptist to be drowned out by the noise around us.
Like John, we must make a conscious decision to move away from the crowd, away from the noise of the secular world, where we can actually hear God’s voice. We must prepare our hearts and make straight our own paths. We must “stop and pay attention”, as with the blue light special, to the good news that came to us, two thousand years ago, and is still with us today.
And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth –Luke 1:16