Climbing inside the passenger seat of a vintage 1952 Dodge truck loaded down with wrapped presents and a lighted UFO hovering over top the bed of the truck, we started down the road in the Hammonton Christmas parade. The theme was “Out of this World,” and there were all sorts of decorated floats, singing groups, and cars that were making their way down the main street. And with my grandson on my lap and some members of Hammonton UMC handing out glow sticks, cocoa mix, and juice boxes, we waved to the people lining the streets. Driveways had become meeting spots for neighbors to gather. There were fire pits that had been pulled into front yards with folding chairs as people huddled together to see the parade. And the closer we got to the center of town, the larger the crowd grew. It was like suddenly the sidewalks were filled with people taking pictures on their phones, waving, and yelling Merry Christmas. Kids by the curbside were jumping up and down, people had smiles on their faces, and there was excitement in the air. And what I realized was, the excitement was not because my grandson and I were waving or people were handing out free snacks, it all had to do with who was coming about a half a mile behind us. For high on top of a fire truck with lights and sirens going was Santa Claus, and we were just simply preparing his entrance.
At this time of year, we often read again the passage of scripture from Isaiah that describes the crooked ways made straight, the valleys lifted, the mountain made low, and the rough way made smooth in preparing the way of the Messiah. We hear again about John the Baptist, being the forerunner who prepared the way for Jesus’s ministry. Yet, how are we preparing the way for Jesus?
We spend a lot of time shopping at stores or online, baking, decorating, watching Hallmark movies or Christmas classics, listening to favorite songs, and making sure everything is just right in keeping with our traditions and celebrations that we lose focus.
Our job as the church and as people of God is to prepare the way for Christ to be seen, known, and heard in the midst of all the sights and sounds that can distract. So, how are you preparing the way to share Christ this Christmas? Will it be inviting someone to join you at a worship service? Will it be in radical hospitality to the visitor who will come Christmas Eve but then get the surprise of their life with a follow-up visit and gift from the church to say, “we want you to experience Christ everyday, not just Christmas.” Will you prepare the way by making time to read the story of Christ’s birth with your family or lighting the advent candle and praying around your table? Will you prepare the way and sit quietly with someone who must experience the first Christmas without a loved one or become a good Samaritan? Will you prepare the way by offering forgiveness or grace to someone and loving another as Christ would love them?
After riding in the parade, I realized we do a good job preparing the way for Santa Claus, between the mall visits, riding around town on the fire truck, and lawn decorations. I just want to make sure we, the followers of Christ, realize we are called to prepare the way for Christ. And how we live, act, worship, serve are all ways we are preparing for the King of Kings. How are you and your church preparing the way?
May you have a Merry Christmas Preparing the Way.