I can't think of a better way to start the second week of Advent than with the first real snow of the season. A perfect, light snow that coated everything with just enough white to make the yard look like a wonderland. (The photo above is from our back deck.) Now, with the sun shining brightly and glinting off everything in site, with ice and show melting slowly to give an extra layer of shine to grass and trees and railings, it's more than perfect. It's poetic. And that, to me, is just the right touch for this Sunday in Advent, when we hear, in the poetic language of the Prophet Isaiah, about John the Baptist, the "voice of one" crying out in the desert, telling us of the One who is to come, the One who will make crooked paths straight and mountains low.
As we continue our journey toward Christmas, careful not to pay too much attention to all those flashy Christmas decorations and nostalgic carols that threaten to rob us of this waiting time and rush us into a moment that is not yet here, we need to stop and reflect on the desert time of Advent. Unlike Lent, where the desert is obvious and clear, Advent beckons us to seek out a hidden desert, our interior desert, the dry places in our spiritual lives that need to be worked out and made lush before the coming of Jesus Christ -- both in celebration on Christmas Day and again at the end of all time.
John the Baptist didn't mince words. Repent. Get ready. Prepare. The kinds of Christmas preparations that John challenges us to tackle have nothing to do with finding the perfect gift or getting all our presents wrapped early or making enough cookies to feed the neighborhood. These preparations won't result in some fabulous holiday display but in an interior calm, a heart set on Jesus not on a date on the calendar. "Make ready the way of the Lord." Luke 3:4