By Bishop Michael Pfeifer, OMI
“Prepare the way of the Lord” [Luke 3:4]. These words from John the Baptist echo throughout the season of Advent with which we begin a new liturgical year. John’s words serve as a wake-up call, as they remind us to step up our efforts at making our lives and the world ready for Christmas so that Jesus can once again be born in each one of us, and so that we will be prepared to greet him when he comes in glory. As Advent prepares us for the celebration of the beautiful birthday of Christ on Christmas, and also reminds us to prepare for Christ’s second coming at the end of time, it is thus a time of joyful and spiritual expectation.
The first observance of Advent can be traced to around the 5th century. The prophets of Advent spoke of the Messiah who is to come, and a people desperate for the justice that the Messiah will establish-a justice we must continue to establish in the name of Jesus.
Advent’s larger-than-life character is John the Baptist, who took center stage in the unfolding drama of salvation history to prepare for the long-awaited Messiah. John’s message was simple but direct, and went to the heart-“Prepare the way of the Lord and repent.” His powerful message challenges us today to focus on the real meaning of the season, and to prepare in an individual, family, and community way for the One who is the Son of justice, who is truly the Light of the World, and who enlightens our path to happiness in this life and to eternal happiness.
“Prepare the way of the Lord.” We know that in the four weeks of Advent, we have much to do to prepare for in our hearts and in our homes for the celebration of the birthday of Christ. Jesus came to focus our attention on how to build up the Kingdom of God by our service, prayer, self-sacrifice, and striving for peace and justice. Advent brings out the best in us and helps us to look at the world with fresh eyes and search out ways to help those we see who are in need.
In Advent we prepare for the beautiful feast of Christmas and we prepare for the second coming of Jesus Christ, who “came not to be served, but to serve.” [Mt.20:28] Advent is a time for us individually and in our families to open our hearts to the light and love of the Holy Spirit so that we can truly be the kind of servants that Christ wants us to be for one another. Mary, the Mother of Jesus and our Mother, who proclaimed herself simply as the servant, the handmaid of the Lord, is a wonderful Advent model and teacher of service, and how to live with the Spirit.
May we all open our minds and hearts to let Mary and the great prophet of Advent, John the Baptist, show us how today in our contemporary world we can best prepare in a spirit of service, love, and generosity for the birthday of our Messiah, Lord and Savior–Jesus Christ.