The baby cautiously pulled himself up on the edge of the couch. His arms bore the weight of his chubby body as he tried to rise, unsteadily, on his legs. Slowly and carefully, he turned and faced the room and took a few uneven steps across the floor recently cleared of toys and laundry.
The tuft of hair on his head, the one I could never get to go down no matter what I tried, bounced a bit with every unsteady step. Eyes locked on his dad across the room, a smile spread across his face. As he toddled toward his intended target, contagious baby laughter erupted from his lips and elicited smiles in the family audience cheering him on. The cheers grew louder with every step gained, until he finally fell into his dad’s arms and was raised triumphantly off the ground in celebration.
When our babies become mobile, there’s an increased attention on clearing the floor. We cover outlets, we limit access to toys with tiny pieces that will be strewn about, we put away breakable things, we place Christmas tree ornaments up higher than we would normally.
We prepare the way to make it easier (and safer) for them to move and get where they’re going.
John the Baptist was the one who came to prepare the way for Christ. His entire life was focused on Christ’s coming from the very beginning. He proclaimed loudly to anyone who would listen that the Messiah is coming: Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths (Mk 1:3). John filled every day with the intention of following Christ and called attention to the things that would lead others to him.
Advent is a time to prepare ourselves for the coming of Christ. Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God! Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill shall be made low (Is 40:3-4). We need to smooth the path to make it easier to reach God. The mountains and hills are obstacles between ourselves and God: sin, distractions, temptations, anything that may take our attention away from God. The valleys that need to be filled are the good things we’re missing that would make the way to Christ easier: prayer, sacraments, acts of charity.
Advent is an invitation to intentionally change how we live. John points the way, with simplicity and humility, but he can’t walk for us. We must prepare ourselves by simplifying expectations and seeking repentance for our sins. We can purposefully seek out moments of peace (yes, even during this crazy season!) in our homes and in our hearts.
Like the baby with his eyes fixed on his dad, we must chase after the one for whom our hearts long. Consider what is keeping you from him. Over mountains and through valleys, whether you find him at the end of a winding path or a smooth highway, God is waiting for you.
Are you willing to walk towards him and let him pick you up?