"In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar...and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee...and Lysanias was tetrach of?" Did you need to pinch yourself awake during the first few lines of this Sunday's Gospel? John the Baptist received quite a prelude today as Luke described the religious and political leadership of the time period. Scripture is divinely inspired, and we believe that everything that made it into the Bible is there for a reason. These lines remind us of an important truth. The Christmas story isn't a fairy tale or nursery rhyme. It's not a parable we say to give meaning to the holiday. At Christmas, God's presence is made tangible in a precise moment in time. The birth of Christ is a historical event. As precursor to Jesus' preaching, the ministry of John the Baptist is also a historical event.
"Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths." John's call to repentance and the forgiveness of sins happened in a particular time and place. But that does not mean it is limited to first century Palestine! God continues to move in our daily lives. What we hear in today's Gospel - and what we anticipate at Christmas - occurs in our daily lives. God works in concrete ways in time and space. He did that 2,000 years ago, and He continues to do so today!
This Sunday, examine your own Christmas preparations. Is there anything you need to repent of before the Christmas season? Are there low points in your life, valleys to "be filled" by the love of God? Are their mountainous obstacles in your spiritual life? How can they be "made low"? Are you making decisions that have moved you away from God? This Advent season is the time for them to "be made straight and ? made smooth." Prepare the way in your heart for Christ today!