John’s message was plain and simple. Unlike many of today’s great orators and politicians who claim large audiences, he did not promise a better and easier life, neither did he speak of wealth, affluence or easy money. Rather, his was a simple instruction: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight”.
This is the message the Church presents to us, as we begin our second week of Advent. Prepare the way of the Lord. In John’s time many people were expecting the coming of the Messiah, the one promised many years before. Now, it seemed that the time had come. The long-awaited Saviour was coming, and people were being urged by John to prepare for him the way. Many heeded John’s invitation. They had a good look at their lives, they recognized weaknesses and mistakes, and they went into the water confessing their sins, openly expressing their desire for a better life.
In the midst of all this John makes one of the most beautiful promises. He tells his people that he is baptizing them with water, a symbol of their repentance and their desire of a better life. Soon there was to come another one, obviously referring to Jesus, who would baptize them with the Holy Spirit. Both John and the people around him knew that, no matter how strong their desire of conversion is, they cannot do it on their own. The Holy Spirit, who will be gifted to the people by Jesus, will make this possible. This is the Spirit you and I have received in our baptism.
On Christmas we shall be celebrating the greatest event in history – the day when God became a human being like us. It is a reminder that we have not been left alone, that God is with us. In today’s first reading the prophet Isaiah busts out in that beautiful song “Comfort, O comfort my people …” Good times are coming when “the glory of the Lord shall be revealed”. God will show himself as the shepherd who feeds his flock and carries his lambs in his bosom. Jesus is the incarnation of our God, a God who loves and who cares. This is, indeed, good news.
As we prepare ourselves for Christmas, let us, too, prepare the way for the Lord to really come into our lives. Let us ask the Holy Spirit to show us what needs to be changed or improved in our lives, and to give us the strength to do it.