“Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked paths shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. And all humankind will see God’s salvation.” – Luke 3:4-6
When a king proposed to visit a part of his dominion, he would send a courier before him to tell the people to prepare the roads. When John the Baptist declares that people should prepare a way for the Lord, I am certain this imagery was clear to the people who were listening. But rather than preparing their roads for a king, John is declaring that people needed to prepare their hearts and lives for the coming of the Messiah, the long-awaited Savior.
Advent is a season (4 weeks leading up to Christmas) of preparing our hearts and lives so that we can truly experience the hope, joy, love, and peace that Christ came to this earth to bring us. But in order for us to experience this, it requires a process of spiritual preparation. The truth is that such preparation requires work and commitment.
Our United Methodist founder John Wesley described what he called “means of grace.” These are intentional practices of the Christian life that place us in a position to experience God’s abundant grace and love. I would like to suggest that during this season of Advent, you commit to practicing these means of grace as a way of preparing yourselves for the coming of Christ.
Some means of grace you can practice and commit yourselves to include:
Prayer – commit to a certain period of time each morning or evening for the sole purpose of prayer. Prayers can include confession, thanksgiving, and supplications to God.
Fasting – commit to refraining from something that you value (food, drink, television, internet, phone). For example, I have committed to not using my phone for games, internet, youtube, every evening until after Christmas. Instead, I will focus my time and energy in filling myself more with the things of God.
Scripture – commit to reading daily a certain amount of scripture. Try to read it not as analysis but as God’s word speaking directly to you. If you read 1 chapter from Luke every day during Advent, except on Sundays (Nov 29-Dec25), you will read the entirety of the gospel of Luke. I will also post short reflections daily on our Facebook page.
Worship – commit yourself to not missing Sunday worship whether it be in-person or online throughout the Advent Season.
Fellowship – commit yourself to getting involved in a smaller group or ministry of the church if you have not already done so. Some examples are women’s group, men’s group, monthly feedings, prayer meeting, bible study, and online small group.
May you prepare your hearts during this season of Advent and may you encounter the hope, joy, love and peace that Christ came to bring to us all.