Monday of the fourth week of Advent
The readings for the day can be found here.
In medicine, there is a concept of “watchful waiting” that is applied to certain diseases such as early stage prostate cancer, where no immediate treatment is called for but the individual’s condition must be monitored regularly for any changes. There is an intentionality to this waiting, a purposefulness, a vigilance. Similarly, the Season of Advent is one of “watchful waiting” for the coming of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Despite the fact that we are waiting, it is not intended to be a time of passivity but rather a time of active preparation, readying ourselves for His birth and entry into our lives.
Today’s Scriptures begin with a reading from the Old Testament in which a barren woman is visited by an angel of the Lord and told that she will conceive and bear a son, one who will be consecrated to God from the womb and who will begin the deliverance of Israel from the power of the Philistines. This story of the birth of Samson is a foreshadowing of today’s Gospel reading from Luke, in which Zechariah is visited by an angel of the Lord and told that his wife Elizabeth, who is elderly and barren, will give birth to a son whom they shall name John. This is of course the story of the coming of John the Baptist, who will “prepare a people fit for the Lord.”
I often find that I understand Scripture best through music, and this time was no exception. As I reflected on these readings, the song “Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord” from the musical Godspell ran through my head, as did the words and music from Handel’s Messiah, echoing the prophet Isaiah: “The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”
What does it mean to prepare ye the way of the Lord? In my life, I take it as a call to do that which I find exceedingly difficult: to step back from the frenetic pace and the noise and the demands of everyday life and to try to create a spiritual, quiet, contemplative space in which to receive Jesus Christ. Ironically, I find that I am often least reflective during the time leading up to Christmas because I get so wrapped up in the added work of Christmas shopping, cooking, and getting the house ready for family and the holidays. Watchful waiting was a challenge for Zechariah and Elizabeth just as it is for us today, but I take from these readings that this time of preparation, of listening, of trusting and of faith, even during periods of darkness and uncertainty, is vitally important. For what good is the coming of the Lord if we’re not ready to receive Him?