“Traveler there is no path. The path is made by walking.” –Antonio Machado
Do you ever have those times when someone surprises you by showing up at your door unexpectedly? Your house is a mess. You’re in the middle of a project. You have no good food or tea to offer. You spend the whole time with your company distracted by the mess and the to-do’s and … time.
Sometimes, Christmas comes upon us like that. Maybe more often than we’d like to admit. It’s suddenly here and the house is a mess, the gifts aren’t wrapped, the cookies aren’t done, and we spend Christmas Eve finishing that project we have to get done before morning.
Advent. There’s no surprise. He is coming. The light. The orient, the dawn. The baby. He is coming and we have a good four weeks of warning. Long ago, there wasn’t much warning: he’s coming…at some point. He’s coming…we’re sure of it; we’re just not sure when, but he is coming.
In times past, we were meant to sustain a path of rejoicing for the one to come and hold patient for the one who was to come. But no one knew when. It was a good few hundred years between Isaiah’s prophecy of:
“Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall
conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”
And John the Baptist calling on the mountain: “Prepare the way of the Lord.” He is imminent.
That’s a long time for the house to get messy, the projects to pile up, and our thoughts to get messy. Grumbling, impatience, and uncertainty.
Advent allows us the opportunity to prepare the path for the Lord. What does that mean? Simply to…
“…make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every
mountain 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.” -John the Baptist
What does that mean? I think it means we need to clean house, prepare and complete the projects, and clear the mind. We create an easy path for the LIGHT to come in. Marcus Borg, in his book The Heart of Christianity, calls these places we cultivate (or that just are) “thin places”. Places where the light of divinity can easily shine through. These can be holy shrines, churches, Pilgrimage sites, places in nature. Often churches were built on places that were already sacred space…these thin places. Often churches become these thin places There are even people who feel like they illuminate these thin places. They walk the path and feel like old, wise souls. We need to create an easy path, a thinner place, in ourselves for the light to shine through.
After all this is a time of waiting and patience for the coming of the Light. Jesus.
I believe that John the Baptist gives us a really good idea of what needs to be done in preparation. In his words above and what do we primarily remember him for? Baptism. He is helping us to cleanse and clear the way now that the coming of Christ is imminent. This is a ritual to ready us to receive the light. It is a clearing and unfogging; a letting go of weight; so that we are ready to receive Grace.
What do WE do? How do we prepare the path? We let go. We get rid of the excess. We even out the paths that have gotten a little crooked. We fill the gaping holes. We smooth out the rough roads. We eliminate the build up; lowering the mountain.
It makes me think of obstacles (of course). We are meant to clear the way of the obstacles. What obstacles? Usually the ones that are self made. One of my Teachers used to always say, “Grace comes, if you just get out of your own way”.
Advent is a time of creating clarity for the coming Light. It is a time of rejoicing. It is a time of patience.
Now, I feel like this is a time to clear the space, and hold space, with our holiday routines and rituals. A time to come back to our hearts. Often, we have let things build up in home, routines, and minds. Advent gives us a chance to clear out and tidy the paths and roads and mountains. Letting go to make space.
We see this in our tasks to be done:
–Cleaning to make space for the tree, the wreathes. Tidying the kitchen to make space to make cookies. Make room to bring out the boxes of Joy and find the tools for baking in the back of our cabinets. And the wrapping paper…where is the wrapping paper?
–We need to clear out the busy to make space/time for baking, shopping, wrapping, the tasks of Joy.
–Sometimes we have deeper clearing to be done. We may feel full or overwhelmed. We may be sick or saddened with grief. We may be full of confusion or self-loathing. We have dark places that need to be healed in order for the Light to shine through. We all have dark times and places, but we can not stay in them. This is the deeper work of letting go, clearing the space, and making a path to walk. Those of us who have been touched by the dark have been given a gift for the Light shines brighter out of the darkness. Sometimes, it feels that there is no path but you must just start by walking. One foot in front of the other. The path will appear. Sometimes you walk alone, sometimes you have company, always God. Always God.
–We need to remember to create space for the unexpected. Someone who needs us on their journey.
–Make space for the deeper work–whatever that might be for you this year. Make space in this time of fullness and busyness and rejoicing for quiet prayer and reflection. Shine up your own soul. Follow the journey of advent. Listen for the voice of God. He is coming. He is here.
Advent. Preparation. Rejoicing and readiness.
–Get out of our own way.
–Tear down our own obstacles.
–Light our own lights.
–Walk the path.
–Open to Grace.
–Clear our hearts and minds for God.