The second of our Advent reflections focusing on the Sundays of Advent
At this time of year, it is very easy to get caught up in earthly things. To get sucked into worldly preparations for ‘the season’. I wonder if, like me, you have found yourselves going through the motions and doing what you have always done because it is that time of year, and it is what you always do. People can get so caught up in the ‘busyness’ of it all that celebrations and services can almost become empty rituals where the point is seriously missed. In Matthew’s Gospel (MT. 3:1-12), John the Baptist asks us to ‘Prepare a way for the Lord’. We are invited at this time to prepare our hearts for the coming of God’s Kingdom. To make room and increase our capacity for Christ to be alive and active in our lives. The Gospel asks us not to be like the Pharisees and Sadducees, who believe they have it all sorted because they are religious. It highlights that it is not enough to partake in the cultural practices of our faith; God wants our whole hearts.
As we prepare a way for the Lord and make room in the competing demands of our time and attention, we are asked to make the ‘path smooth and straight’. I wonder what this line brings to mind for you? It reminds me that we can often complicate our lives and deviate from the path God has prepared for us. We forget to fix our minds on him and get sucked into the minutiae of life with little lasting value. Sometimes we veer so far off God’s path that we really need to listen to his voice and have a change of heart, a repentance.
The beauty of John’s message and the whole Christian message is that even when we lose our way and get lost in the earthly things of life, God is always calling us back. While speaking to our young people, Pope Francis reminded us that the Sacrament of Reconciliation is to be a sacrament of Joy. “One does not go to confession,” the Pope explained to the young people, “as chastised people who must humble themselves, but as children who run to receive the Father’s embrace. And the Father lifts us up in every situation; He forgives our every sin. Hear this well: God always forgives! Do you understand? God always forgives!” One is not going to a judge to settle accounts, but “to Jesus who loves me and heals me”*.
So, the invitation at this time is to repent and to prepare our hearts with joy for the coming Kingdom. We pray that today we can make room and prepare space for an authentic encounter with Christ that bears fruit in our relationships with others. We pray that we can feel God’s embrace and grow as channels of his Kingdom, not straying from his path.
Amy Cameron works as the Co-ordinator for Faith & Mission in the diocese of Hexham & Newcastle. Her role involves working with the clergy and laity in many different aspects of ministry from bereavement support to liturgical development, adult formation to interfaith dialogue. Amy is the joint diocesan co-ordinator for Synod and is passionate about accompaniment and discernment. She lives in Northumberland with her husband, three teenage daughters and two dogs.