God Will Prepare the Way: Advent Meditation, 12/2/2012
Today’s passage from the 25th Psalm is all about trust – trusting in God to show us the way to salvation. Aren’t we already doing that? “Show me your ways! Teach me your paths!” No matter how much we say we’re ready, how many times we ask for wisdom, somehow we still don’t have a firm grasp on God’s ways; every time we think we’ve found the path, we’re suddenly off in the thorns and the brush again.
The problem isn’t that we’re not asking hard enough, it’s that we think trust is only a matter of asking. We’re so busy demanding solutions from the Lord that we never take time to listen for the answer.
Advent can be that time. A time when we learn to trust God by listening. By waiting.
So often, when we are given the opportunity to “wait,” we look at it as a waste of our time. We try to fill the waiting with other things. When we are on hold, we put our phone on speaker so that we can do something else while we wait for the person on the other end. When a friend needs a moment to prepare to speak, we start planning something unrelated in our heads. Or, maybe, we’re just distracting ourselves with something pointless on our phones.
Maybe we’re even waiting for a difficult situation to be resolved – an argument with a loved one or an illness or simply some grief or despair that we can’t seem to shake. Don’t we all rack our brains to try to think of some way to fix the situation, to try to think of something we can do rather than simply wait for healing?
This is the waiting we’re used to. It’s a time of desperate distraction.
So, what is Advent then? Is it a time to get ready for Christmas? Yes, of course. But how do we get ready? How do we spend our time of waiting for the birth of our savior? Maybe it’s getting food for a holiday dinner or party. Maybe it’s getting presents ready for loved ones. Maybe it’s trying to finish up work before the end of the year.
It’s helpful to remember it is not we who will prepare ourselves and our families and our church for Christmas. The Lord will prepare the way for his Son.
But what is our role then? Perhaps it’s as simple as carrying around a question or two with you: “Am I preparing for the coming of Christ in the world? Am I conscious of my yearning for Jesus, or will his coming take me by surprise?”
Waiting is frightening in our culture. We are frightened because when we are waiting, we are not in control. I have never needed to trust in the Lord more than when I am forced to be still, when I can do nothing but wait. I believe that God leads me into these moments so that I can truly learn His ways, so that I may study the design of His path. My goal is to be present in these moments of uncertainty and helplessness – to know fully that nothing I can do will bring about salvation. That is how I make room for the coming of Christ.
I often like to reflect on Psalm 146 during Advent, because it’s a helpful reminder of just who is doing the saving:
The LORD sets the prisoners free;
the LORD opens the eyes of the blind;
the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down;
The LORD loves the righteous;
the LORD cares for the stranger;
he sustains the orphan and widow,
but frustrates the way of the wicked.
It is not we who will prepare ourselves and our families and our church for Christmas. Trust that the Lord will prepare the way for his Son.
Collect for the First Sunday in Advent
Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal;through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.