‘Prepare the way of the Lord’ is the refrain of today’s three Readings. That is what God said to His people in the Old Testament and the Evangelist repeats in the New. And that is also what God says to all men and women of goodwill today.

The Readings are most apt, for Advent is a time to change ourselves for the better, to renew our aspirations for things from on high, to convert our hearts and minds to God and neighbour. Thus, preparing the way of the Lord always brings joy and fulfilment.

God’s message through the Prophet Isaiah in the First Reading (Is 40: 1-5, 9-11) must have greatly soothed the nerves of his enslaved lot. God promised the Jews liberation from their exile in Babylon and worked out a plan for their return to the land of their ancestors. Obviously, the people’s collaboration was a must if they were to find peace and salvation; and it is equally true today, for us who are enslaved by materialism and godlessness. It calls for renunciation of sin and a radical change of heart on our part, in anticipation of God’s forgiveness and continued love.

That is the Good News of Salvation (or Gospel). Today, St Mark (1: 1-8) points to John the Baptist as that divine messenger sent to “prepare the way of the Lord” and to “make his paths straight” – that is to say, help people adopt a course of behaviour in keeping with the Lord’s commandments. The essential condition is that we repent for our sins and confess them. To restore our relationship with our Divine Master, we have to avail ourselves of the sacraments of Penance and Holy Eucharist.

What better time to do so than now? Christmas is a reminder of that uncertain time in the future when we will see God face to face. So, Advent is a time of expectant waiting and preparation for both the commemoration of Christ’s Nativity at Christmas every year and for the return of Christ at the Second Coming. When will this be? It could happen at any time: it could take a second or an eternity.

Meanwhile, let’s realise that Jesus comes into our hearts every single day; so, every single day is a preparation for that moment in our personal and collective lives when the Lord will appear to us in person.

St Peter in the Second Reading (2 Pet 3: 8-14) reminds us that “with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” We may think that He is slow to come, but He is not; what we perceive as a delay could well be an extended time for preparation, a bonus to be grateful for. Are we going to make use of it effectively? The Lord does not wish that any of His children should perish but that all should reach repentance.

What matters most is a quiet but earnest spiritual preparation; hence, the refrain: “Prepare the way of the Lord”. Our Lord does not expect us to merely prepare a way for Him, by means of a loud and pompous celebration. It is, unmistakably, a straight and narrow path of patience and prayer.