Making Way for Jesus

As I write this, Thanksgiving Day is fast approaching, opening the way to the season of Advent and finally Christmas.  ALL of our schedules change and adapt to make way for the holiday activities.  "Holiday" - or, for us who are people of faith, "Holy Day" celebrations can sometimes get in the way of what we are trying to honor or celebrate.  The holiness of the day can easily be obliterated by the busyness - or even the special-ness of our activities.  This happens quite a lot at Christmas: Jesus is completely lost in the craziness of the parties, gift buying, giving and receiving, warm (or maybe "heated"?) family moments, and other activities of the season.  There must be a better, um, "way" of doing this.  Is it even possible, in this day and age, to celebrate Christmas and include Jesus?  (That's kind of a funny question, isn't it?)

John the Baptist (and Isaiah before him), cried out in the wilderness, "Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.  Every valley shall be filled and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God." (Luke 3:4-6, NRSV)

How does this help us get ready for Jesus' arrival?  Let's unpack the scripture a little and try to bring it into our context:
- The term "wilderness" in the Bible generally denotes not just desert, but a place that is uncontrolled, dangerous, and frightening. 
- The term "way" still means not just a road, but a path of life, that is, the direction one takes through life choices and opportunities - the direction and manner we travel in.
- Continuing the "way" metaphor, one can easily conceive of hills and valleys, of time when the going became more difficult or frightening, as well as of times of rough going.  Struggles, rough going and tough travel, have been a part of the human condition and continue to mark our journeys through this life.

These ancient travel instructions are easily translated into the today's "lifestyles of the harried and harassed."  We can relate to the fear and dread of being lost in a wilderness-type of life situation, where we wonder what will try to destroy us next, what horrid thing will befall us, and why are we so alone and afraid.  Have you ever dreaded going to a family gathering?

But what is John telling us to do?  To prepare the way, making his paths straight.  Have you ever watched a road grader level out a roadway in preparation for pavement?  Have you ever seen bulldozer moving dirt around to bring order to the chaos of a vacant lot?  What bulldozers or graders could we use in our lives?  Try these:

- Absolutely unbounded forgiveness (you know, like we received from God because of Jesus, whose birth we are celebrating) 
- Proactive, unrelenting love (again, like we receive from God in Jesus). Sometimes this has to be "tough love," going beyond what people think they want to what they really need 
- Celebrate the successes of others, building them up 
- Freely empathize with any who are struggling 
- Realize that our relationships are the most precious gifts that God has given us (sometimes it's a little hard to see)
- Rejoice that God sent Jesus to us, to bring us Hope, Love, Peace and Joy. 

You will be amazed at how putting these attitudes and actions in place in your life smoothes the path, making the way for Jesus to be present in your life, family and world. 

In Christ's Love,

Pastor Larry