Advent: time of preparation?

It is common to think of Advent as the time of preparing for the coming of our Lord. As if Advent is a sort of introduction to Christmas, to help us get in the mood. Did John the Baptist not call the people to ‘Prepare the way of the Lord’?
Have you tried? Have you done things to ensure that Jesus can return? Did it work well?

A well-known theologian wrote, ‘It is impossible to state too clearly that only the coming Lord himself can make ready the way for his coming... The end [the goal] of all preparation of the way of Christ must be precisely in perceiving that we ourselves can never prepare the way.’

The theologian who wrote this was Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He knew what it meant to wait. His last 18 months he spent in a Nazi prison, to be killed shortly before the end of the war.

This sort of waiting for Christ to act, in the midst of our present darkness, sounds passive but it is not. It demands stamina to hold on to God and to wait for Him to come. And of course, in the meantime it also needs the heroic act of loving others. Not a small feat!

With our own hands, even with our sweetest love, we cannot bring God’s Kingdom nearer; rather, we tend to mess up if we think we can with our actions pave the way for Him to come. History is full of people who with the best of intentions, increased the darkness. One example?

The crowds heard John the Baptist’s call for repentance, and many of them were baptised with perfect intentions. Three years later the same crowds clamored for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Maybe this is how they prepared the way for the Lord?

Too much trust in our good intentions, too much faith in our own ability to follow God, is presumptuous. If Advent teaches us anything, it is that we are still in darkness. We need Christ to come. Come Lord Jesus, and shed your light in our dark souls, our dark world.

Jos Strengholt