Mike hated the commercialism of Christmas. When forced to retire early, he checked out altogether. “Get me nothing,” he grouched, “until people understand what Christmas is all about.” That year, his wife, Nan, gave him a white envelope, which she nestled into the tree. Inside, Nan pledged to sew uniforms for an underprivileged wrestling team. Once she started, Mike decided to help. Together, they sized the children, cut the fabric, and befriended the school kids. By year’s end, Mike was ready for another envelope. Nan left another that Christmas, and each year thereafter. The acts of kindness they shared together sprouted throughout their city: birdhouses for a refuge, a playground for a children’s home, a community garden from a vacant lot. Those became the best years of their lives.
One year, Mike passed away three days before Christmas. Friends and family gathered to share Nan’s grief. On Christmas Eve, Nan placed, for Mike, one last envelope into the tree. She awoke Christmas morning to squeals downstairs. As she came down, she surveyed her loved ones. Then she saw the tree. It was covered in white. Dozens of envelopes—from every child, grandchild, nephew, and niece—pledged acts of kindness in honor of Mike, the man who loved Christmas.
How do we wait faithfully for God in the wilderness? The prophet Isaiah says, “Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.” We pave a straight path for God through acts of kindness, justice, generosity, and compassion. When we love, God will come. “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me,” John says. As sure as a baby’s birth in a manger, as abundant as Christmas envelopes multiplying into the future, God will walk the path laid out. Love will encompass our world.
Baby of the manger, may each act of kindness be a straw in your crib, preparing the way for your coming. Amen.
Hopeful anticipation characterizes this week’s texts. God’s people have come to terms with their inability to save themselves. Isaiah 40 states that Jerusalem has “served her term” in bondage to sin; a new era is about to dawn. Psalm 85 continues the theme of old sins forgiven, emphasizing an urgent need for some fresh outbreak of God’s initiatives. Harmonious and responsible relationships are to dominate the hearts of the people. Thoughts of righteousness and peace also pervade the passage from 2 Peter 3. Yet the focus is clearly on Christ’s Second Advent. His coming will be sudden and unannounced; the new creation will then appear. The Gospel text focuses on the earthly ministry of Jesus as John the baptizer comes to sensitize all hearts to the advent of the One promised long ago.
• Read Isaiah 40:1-11. God’s word of comfort brings challenge as well: How are you preparing the way of the Lord?
• Read Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13. What glimpses of heaven in your daily life give you con dence in God’s steadfast love?
• Read 2 Peter 3:8-15a. How are you using this time of Advent waiting to move toward more faithful living?
• Read Mark 1:1-8. John identified himself as “messenger.” How would you identify your role in working toward the reign of Christ?
Respond by posting a prayer.
This season, Whitney R. Simpson has given us the gift we must open: a clear, accessible invitation to connect with the divine spark that is within us. This is the best present: being present for Jesus’ birth, God made human.”
Learn more about our newest Advent resource, Fully Human, Fully Divine here.