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Make straight the way
Six jaws dropped. The same number of pairs of eyes stared in shock. Stunned at the sight before us, thoughts went back to our expedition through the woods the week before to find the perfect tree, traipsing through the brush, fallen needles like a blanket beneath our boots. Now, that blanket of needles lay on our living room carpet, piled in uneven mounds underneath a bare, vertical skeleton.
This was our story last year, describing the morning we had woken up to find that our beautiful Christmas tree had lost all of its needles only a week after its arrival. Apparently our Canaan Fir had turned out to be a Norway Spruce, a variety known to lose its needles quickly when indoors. Well, it was a lesson learned the hard way, but it was certainly well-learned.
The other day, as I was sweeping up the dead needles that remained after our tree setup this year (which is, by the way, an ACTUAL Canaan Fir), I remembered that morning and my thoughts turned to Advent. Have I been doing a good job sweeping away the dead things that have been getting in the way on my path to Christ? I am supposed to be responding to the heralded cry by St. John the Baptist - "Make straight the way of the Lord!" But, with all of the hubbub, have I really focused on removing the dead branches in the way? Or have I let boulders or protruding brush impede my ability to make the way straight?
I knew the answer: of course I have. For a moment, I felt like one of the Magi who may have had a momentary lapse of judgement in deciding whether or not to return to Herod with news of the birth of the Savior. In truth, and to the great credit of the Magi, there most likely was never a lapse of judgement. Thank goodness I was not a crown-bearing royal at such a pivotal point in history!
How hard it is to keep our eyes on the prize and remember to have an Advent attitude. It seems so easy to give in to the distractions and put the real meaning of the season in the background. The fact that this is happening is proof enough that I still have needles yet to be swept away. But, there is still time!! 3 weeks of Advent lay ahead, waiting for me to unfold them. Time enough to push away the boulders and trim the brush. Time enough to focus on the celestial sign pointing to the manger. And time enough to "make the way straight!"
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