Theme: Making Room for Hope

Written by Rev. Dr. Garner Scott Odell, First Congregational Church of Fresno

Mark 1:1-3

Advent Roads

The season of Advent is marked by roads. Prepare the way of the Lord, we read in this week’s text from Mark. In this present time, the landscape we live in can seem utterly trackless. We may find it difficult to envision by what path Christ could enter this world, and daunting to imagine what road would finally lead to the healing and redemption of creation. Yet this is what Advent invites us to do: to lift our heads, to raise our eyes, to look toward the horizon and dream of the way by which Christ will come to us.

In calling our eyes toward the horizon, Advent does not draw us away from the present or lull us into an avoidance of the world at hand. Advent invites us instead to stand in the thick of this life and open our heart to the road that Christ wants to make, not only for us but also in us and through us. Because when Christ comes, the horizon he appears on is not so distant, after all. The place where he shows up is always in our very midst.

In this Advent week, I pray Christ will give us the courage to envision, to hope for, to dream, and to make ready the road by which he comes to us.

Lately, I have spent a lot of time thinking about the roads of my life. I thought of roads I have traveled, the ones already laid down for me: pathways made of concrete, of asphalt, of dirt, of stone. Pathways made of traditions, of the habits of communities, of the patterns of institutions. I thought of roads I have made where there were none. Ways I have made through imagination, through dreaming, through effort and intention. Roads made of words, wood, paper; roads fashioned of longing and of prayer.

I thought of what it takes to make a way, how it is that we create a passage from one place to another within the landscape of the world or of our own inner terrain. How we must discern the materials to use and the tools; how crucial to learn to navigate, to reckon, to read the lay of the land. How we sometimes find a path as much by stumbling as by skill. How we may have to tear up a road, make it again in a different direction.

But I think the Advent road is perhaps not like this. That it is not one that we can fashion from our striving and our skill. That when John the Baptist comes over that wilderness horizon, smelling of camel’s hair, his lips dripping with honey and with fire, he is pointing toward a way that we can make only by what we give up, what we shed, what we let go of.

What’s in your way these days? If you were to imagine your life as a path, a road, what would it look like right now? Is there anything cluttering your way? Is there something you need to let go of in order to prepare the way for the Christ who enters the world in this and every season?

Blessings to you in these Advent days. May you find delights even in the desert spaces, on whatever road you have taken this season.