2nd Sunday of Advent Reflection by Patrick Sinozich

There's something about the shorter days at this time of year that makes me reflective…

I remember growing up with the family Advent wreath at the center of our big round dinner table. We were seven children, and so each of us got one day of the week to light the candles. (I was the fourth child, so Wednesday was my day.) I loved striking the match and watching the tapers catch fire.

There’s something comforting about candles, the light they bring, the warmth they give out. And the shortening of days meant that our circle of candles inside the house was a foil to the early darkness outside.

Advent—from the Latin for “a coming, an approach, or an arrival”—is upon us! Our culture has pretty much co-opted Christmas with glitz, glamor and gift giving, but Advent lies relatively unscathed, giving us the possibility, the opportunity, to do something differently.

Let’s celebrate the wait!

In today’s Gospel we hear about John the Baptist, a man with a big voice coming out of the desert, crying “Prepare the way of the Lord!” John attracted many people from Judea and Jerusalem and proclaimed a baptism of repentance. (In the New Testament, the Greek word used for repentance is metanoia, meaning “a change of mind and heart.”) For John, repentance took the form of a transformative change of heart, a spiritual conversion.

What John did for Israel, Advent can do for us.

We are, like John, called to “come before” Jesus, announcing his coming into the world. We must prepare ourselves—and the world—for the birth of Christ. We are called to experience a conversion, a change of heart. How are we to accomplish this?

By bringing comfort to those without:

“’Comfort, give comfort to my people’ says your God.” (Isaiah 40:1)

By preparing a place and a space for God in our celebrations:

“Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.” (Mark 1:3)

By acknowledging God’s greatness in our words and actions:

“One mightier than I is coming after me.” (Mark 1:7)

How are we to give comfort? What does it mean to “make straight his paths”? How can we bring God into this period of waiting?

Light one candle, say a prayer. Light another, pause to listen. Light a third, share a word of encouragement. Light a fourth, breathe. Creating a place and a space for God requires conscious action. It requires pausing and listening for God’s voice in the desert of consumerism. It requires our hearts and minds to change their focus from the busyness of the season to seeking God in the lonely, the home-bound, and the sick.

By preparing God’s way “the glory of the Lord will be revealed.” Experiencing a change of heart and mind, and acting in a transformed way, makes the path smooth for God’s arrival.

The birth of the Christ-child marks a new beginning for the world, new life. We too can take the opportunity to begin anew, to start fresh. Advent marks the beginning of the church year. So too can it mark our own beginning, our own renewal. Through Christ we can be transformed.