The first advent voice says “Prepare the way of the Lord.”
Frank kept the strangest of Christmas lists. He called it «My Refinement List.» He first made one out when he was 45 years old. He worked at it faithfully for 29 years. He was 74 and a grandfather. In all that time it had remained a secret, but now his youngest grandchild discovered his list, and looked Grandpa Frank dead in the eye, and said, «What’s this?»
«A special Christmas list,» answered Frank, a bit vaguely.
«Is it what you want for Christmas?» asked the boy.
«It’s not that kind of a list,» answered Frank.
«Is it what you’re going to give other people?» the boy asked.
«Well, no, it’s not that kind of a list either.» Then groping for words to explain something he felt was important and wanted to pass on, Frank spoke tenderly to the boy. «A few weeks before Christmas I just write down the things I’d like God to help me get rid of, like selfishness, or being impatient with your grandmother, or wanting too many things for myself. I figure the more I get rid of things like that, the more I’ll be able to rejoice in the good things God gives us all.»1
The Second Advent voice is “make straight his paths.”
In her novel Animal Dreams, Barbara Kingsolver introduces us to two sisters – Codi and Hallie – whose mother died in childbirth and who were raised by a cold and autocratic father.
The two sisters react very differently to the emotional impoverishment of their childhood. Codi becomes a drifter, unable to find roots in work or love or relationship – suspicious of the world – scared of passion – cynical about this crapshoot called life.
But Hallie makes a different choice. Somehow she is able to embrace life and discover passion and decide in the unfinished world of which she is a part that she can and must make a difference. She ends up going to Central America as an agricultural specialist – determined to lose her life in order to find it. In a letter to her mystified sister, Hallie writes:
Codi, here’s what I’ve decided: the least you can do is to figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live under its roof … Codi, I wish you knew how to squander yourself (for hope).2
The third advent voice word is comfort-
“Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem.”
God cares about you, once you confess a sin, any sin, in the Sacrament of reconciliation, you receive God’s comfort and reclaims us as His own people. What good news of comfort and joy.
God also speaks of blessings just outside our comfort zone and then asks us to reach out and get them.
E.g. hearing prolife voices crying out in the desert.
Elizabeth gave birth to the miracle child at an old age, John the Baptist.
Jesus himself was also “unexpected” and came from an unplanned pregnancy.
This past Veterans Day, a parish pro-lifer gathered twenty of us outside the Alexandria Detention Center and Federal facility praying for the rescuers detained there. The jail is sound proof, but the outside of the facility is located just 20 yards from the Capital Beltway where we prayed. The voices of prayers for life mixed-in with traffic sounds were still full of hope, the realization of Psalm 72:2, which says that good people shall be encouraged, advanced, and multiplied: “Justice shall flourish in His time, and fullness of peace forever.”
A cry to God never falls on deaf ears.
1. Ron Lavin, Preparing the Way, Sermons.com
2. Barbara Kingsolver, Animal Dreams (Boston: G. K. Hall and Co., 1991), p 299