“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.  This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’” (Matthew 3:2-3)

Advent is a time to deepen our reflection on the celebration of the great event of the Incarnation of our Lord.  Advent is actually similar to Lent. In both seasons we are encouraged to reflect on God’s gift of Jesus’ humanity, sacrifice and resurrection. At least for me, however, because of the din of the commercialism surrounding us and invading our homes as Christmas approaches, I have to struggle harder in Advent to see farther down the path toward God’s signs of our salvation.  God’s greatest gift of the Son Jesus is partially masked by “Jingle Bell Rock!”

Advent exists to give us an occasion to ponder the message of Isaiah and the call of John the Baptist for repentance and John’s announcement of the nearness of the kingdom of God.  John is the one whom Isaiah prophesied will cry in the wilderness for people to prepare the Lord’s way and make his “paths straight.”  Making things straight means making a decisive move toward letting God be in control of our lives—shedding our pride and sense of self-sufficiency.  It also means getting right with our neighbors.  John singles out some (the Pharisees and Sadducees) for harsh criticism as they approach him for baptism because they are “vipers” preying on and exploiting others from the authority of their positions.

Modern secularized culture constantly seeks to draw us in Advent away from our penitential reflection. The commercial culture in this time of Advent focuses on badgering us only to make “straight paths” directly to Amazon online purchases or at “brick-and-mortar” shops! Advent and Christmas are the toughest of all holy seasons for the Church to recapture their true meaning.

So let us pray for God’s help to keep our focus on this true meaning of Advent and Christmas.  What is that meaning?  Succinctly, it is: “God descends to reascend and to bring the whole ruined world up with Him” (C. S. Lewis).  May we wear this wise expression as a breastplate against the secularized gaudy distractions aimed to steer us off the “straight path.”

To all of you, a reflective and penitent Advent and a joyously sacred celebration of God’s descent!