A year of deafening distractions thrusting themselves upon our attention! The Olympic Games, global crash of the financial system, the drawn-out U.S. Presidential Election campaign; constant awareness of disasters and of human suffering; the horrors of terrorism and modern armed conflict. The list could continue.
Even in this pre-Christmas season we find ourselves assaulted by the brash messages about irresistible bargains in the shops and about 'red-nosed reindeer' orbiting our roof-tops.
And now, this very Sunday, Holy Mother Church is providing us with yet another voice sounding off with all the urgency of a "Red Alert!" .
A voice cries in the wilderness; prepare a way for the Lord, makes his paths straight.
What is there to prevent the sound, the message, of this particular voice being lost amidst all these other sounds and images? What will give a compelling appeal to the proclamation that the Lord is coming our way? And that the Lord is of such supreme eminence that the Baptist did not count himself deserving of the privilege of loosening the strap of his sandal? And what will convince us that it is incumbent upon us to make adequate preparations if we really want the Lord to come to us personally?
The penance recommended by the Baptist as the most fitting preparation seems totally out of step with the jolly mood associated with Christmas. Repentance comes through to us as a rather mournful exercise.
And this is so if we see repentance only as a preoccupation with our sins rather than it being our making space in our lives for God to fill with the holiness of his presence- the presence of the one of whom it was written,
'When the completion of the time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman' (Galatians 4.4.)
'This is how God loved the world: he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life' (John 3.16).
In anticipation of such a coming it makes sense that we should get rid of the garbage which is sin. This is my anxiety. With the freedom that God has given us, it is as easy to block out the voice of the Lord as it is to turn off the TV. What chance is there that any of the Advent message will reach any hearts and be more than of passing interest?
I am convinced that if the Word of God is indeed, something alive and active; if it really cuts more incisively than any two-edged sword; if it can seek out the 'place where soul is divided from spirit, or joints from marrow; if it can pass judgment on secret emotions and thoughts,' (cf.Hebrews 4.12), then it's up to God to thrust his sacred Sword of the Word home with the power that he alone possesses.
This voice carrying the Divine Word must over-ride all other voices if it is affect our lives in the way God intends. Such is my prayer for all of us who hear this Word and those of us who proclaim it as we prepare to celebrate Christmas.