Advent: Will We Be Spiritually Ready for Christmas?

User’s Guide to Sunday, Dec. 5

Advent prepares our hearts to embrace the Christ Child.
Advent prepares our hearts to embrace the Christ Child. (photo: Shutterstock / Shutterstock)

Sunday, Dec. 5, is the Second Sunday of Advent. Mass readings: Baruch 5:1-9; Psalm 126:1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 6; Phil 1:4-6, 8-11; Luke 3:1-6.

In this Sunday’s Gospel, we are told that “John went throughout the whole region of the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Luke 3:3). Here, we have a basic biblical call, “Repent and believe in the good news!” John said this, but so did Jesus in his opening call. The Greek word for “repent” is metanoia. This term means more than moral conversion. It means, more literally, to have one’s thinking changed (meta = change, noia = thought), to think in a new way. With our thinking renewed, we act differently. 

But, as a practical matter, what does it mean to repent? John lists a number of elements when he says, “Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight his paths. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low. The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God” (Luke 3:4-6).

Let’s look at the elements of the content:

Be Ready: The text says, “Prepare the way of the Lord.” This is a hectic season; we’re all getting ready for Christmas, but mostly in a social way (buying presents, going to parties and decorating the house). Will we be spiritually ready for Christmas? We spend years getting ready for careers. Why don’t we spend more time getting ready for God? Careers and advancement are not certain, but death and judgment are. Why do we often get ready for uncertain, worldly things and yet not spend more time on spiritual things?

Be Right: The text says, “make straight his paths.” The winding roads shall be made straight! A winding road is a symbol of shifting priorities, of waywardness, of a heart that is not steadfast and straight. Too often we are all over the moral map; we are inconsistent and crooked. As Scripture says, “Do not swerve to one side or the other; turn your foot away from evil” (Proverbs 4:24-27).

Be Reverent: The text says, “Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low.” The mountain represents pride. Every sin is rooted in pride: We think that we know better than God. There is nothing that excludes us more from heaven than pride. The valley symbolizes low self-esteem and despair. It may not be obvious, but a lot of sins come from low self-esteem. For example, we gossip and denigrate others because we think that if they are brought low, we will feel better about our own self. We also give way to peer pressure easily because we sometimes think we can only feel better about our own self if we “fit in” and are approved by others. Sometimes we  may even sin in order to accomplish that. These valleys have to be filled in.

Be Refined: The text says, “the rough ways shall be made smooth.” Rough ways are filled with obstacles, stumbling blocks and pitfalls. What are some of the things that hinder our ways? What are some of our obstacles and pitfalls? What trips me up? What in me needs softening and smoothing?

Be Recognizing: The text says, “and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” The Greek word used in this passage is horao, which involves an active looking, more than merely having something overshadow us or cross our visual path. We must look for salvation and redemption; we must seek it. It is a gift, but we must open our eyes and accustom ourselves to its light and to its ways.

Repent and be ready, the coming of the Lord is near!