Like Mary and Joseph, we must travel through valleys, between hills and over mountains to reach the place where the census is being taken. We have to weather life’s troubles, storms of despair and disappointment. And, look out at the horizon from the joyful mountain peaks of our lives to view the beauty God has laid out for us.
And, then there’s the Magi. They traveled to see the new-born child bringing with them a sack-full of Christmas presents. With our families spread across the nation and world, and now with the pandemic, the ritual of travel toward togetherness is threatened by fear of contagion rather than anticipation of pleasure. But, we journey onward each Advent season. We journey toward Bethlehem to witness the miracle of Jesus’ birth. We journey toward the end of all time, when Christ Jesus will come again.
If you took long road trips as a kid, you may have played travel games to help pass the time (and reduce the number of back-seat squabbles). When you saw the sign “Exit Ahead” did you wish and wonder, “Are we there yet?” Like those trips, we continue down the road to Bethlehem where we see some signs along our way. Last week, Jesus warned us to be alert, watching for God’s unexpected activity in our lives and in our world. Today, the sign we see is one that most of us dread seeing while along our highways – “Road Construction Ahead.”
Why is it that we tend to get upset when we see a sign for road construction? That’s a sign that in the not too distant future (though probably more distant than we’d like) the road work will be complete. But still, when we see that sign ROAD CONSTRUCTION TO BEGIN NEXT WEEK, or see orange barrels or the concrete barricades we begin to get uptight and look for an alternate route. Road construction signs signal: “inconvenience, hassles, delays.” Is that what we feel when we see today’s signs in the Scriptures? Road Construction. Two more weeks until we get to sing Christmas carols outside of choir practice. How long until we can hang the decorations on the tree?
Are you facing a sign of work in progress – Proceed with Caution! Can you hear John the Baptist shouting out with the powerful words of the prophet Isaiah? Does he bellow like a highway foreman, “Prepare the way of the Lord! Make that path straight! Fill that valley! Get that mountain outta here! Hey, what happened over there? It’s all crooked! Make it straight! Smooth out that rough place! We gotta show everyone the salvation of God. Get busy!”
If you’ve observed road construction you know it is labor-intensive. It’s not like a Lego project. How’s God’s construction company doing with you? Are you making new inroads to acknowledgement of the need for improvement? This Advent, have you been working to smooth rocky relationships? What about making repairs on your approach to people? Are you consciously striving to be direct – saying what you mean and meaning what you say? Are you bolstering up the pillars of your prayer life? Are you repairing older sections of your highway to God? Are you blasting out the bad habits and fortifying your daily schedule so there is a new, wider, safe path to settling into the spirit of Lectio?
Maybe God is opening up for you a new area of possibility – a new awakening to how you can expand your life of service and hospitality. What new road is God building in your life? No matter how we might like to think that we’ve got it all together, sooner or later we all need to make a little heavenly highway repair. Our God promises to help us fix what’s broken in our lives; to come to our rescue and strengthen those areas of weakness that plague us so. Jesus can remove those piles of junk, fill in the potholes, and strengthen the sagging places if we but stop trying to “do it my way” and allow God to be the one to put up the sign – “Caution. Construction Ahead!” And, then allow God to be the boss, the foreman, the project manager.
~Reflection by Sister Roberta Bailey, OSB, Prioress