Listen to this devotional:
Listen while you read: "O Come O Come Emmanuel"1 (Lyrics)
Isaiah 40:3-5 – A voice of one calling: "In the desert prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken." (NIV)
Every year as Advent arrives, I hear the song, "Prepare ye the way of the Lord", from the musical Godspell, playing over and over in my head. It's a loud, happy, euphoric song, and that's appropriate: what could be more joy-inducing than preparing for the arrival of Jesus!
Amidst all that happy noise, Advent also represents another, more contemplative opportunity: an opportunity to quietly and deliberately prepare our hearts to receive our Lord and Saviour. This is a time for us to reflect on what has come before — to take stock of ourselves, to confess our past, and to seek God's guidance and correction where necessary — and on that foundation, to look forward with faith to Christmas and to the year ahead.
When I hear Isaiah say, "The glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it", I hear not just a prophecy but also a suggestion — or maybe it's a command! For if we are to see the glory of the Lord together, then surely we must look for it together.
When I think of that word "together", I think not only of family and friends gathered together at Christmas to celebrate, but I also think of our church congregations meeting each week, and the global community of faith, including all believers around the world. Each of these represents an opportunity, and even an obligation, this Advent: to prepare our hearts individually, to be present and worshipful with our local congregations, and to be in spiritual communion with Christian believers everywhere. Together, let's prepare to receive Christ into the world!
Prayer: Loving God, as we move through the season of Advent and come closer and closer to Christmas, please help us to take time — this God-given opportunity — to open our hearts in anticipation of the arrival of Your Son. Help us to feel Your soul-filling love, as we behold the wonder of the Christ Child. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.