For us to reach Christmas we go through the preparation of Advent.

 

We must pass beyond the mountains and valleys and rugged places of our lives.

If we fail Advent,

we might reach Christmas as only the date on a calendar.

 

The Virgin Mary and her cousin John the Baptist prepared the way of the Lord.

We need to observe them to learn God’s way into our own lives.

 

Mary, in her Immaculate Conception,

was the Morning Star rising in history.

 

Mary prepared the way for the Lord on the first Christmas.

And if we tum to her for help,

she will prepare his way into our lives this Christmas.

 

We need to look at the barriers to Christ,

which must be removed from our lives,

especially the hindrances which must be removed in family life.

 

In the first reading,

Isaiah singled out the hindrances to be eliminated from our lives.

The mountains that must be leveled.

 

In our lives we can see these mountains as our high peaks of selfishness and greed,

which cut off the view of God,

and of all we want to love more faithfully.

 

Nearby are the valleys of neglect of duties.

We can fill them in by acts of faithfulness and love.

 

Then there are the rough ways of wasted time and excessive TV,

and all the unimportant activities we have admitted into our lives.

 

We must also remove the hindrances from family life.

What are they?

You can see that best if you compare family life to a juggling act.

 

A cute story is pictured as a talent contest,

where ten families stand in groups on the stage.

Each family is given a vase,

which must be tossed from one family member to another.

Most manage to do it without breakage.

 

But then a cup and saucer are added,

and then a wedding ring and a crucifix and a doll.

 

And now crashes are heard on all sides.

At first there is laughter,

but then cries of discomfort as the participants step on the broken things.

 

By now the symbolism is probably getting clear to you.

Married life is a juggling act.

 

Families let more and more activities into their lives until finally,

all family members are juggling and trying to keep it all in the air.

 

But you know what happens.

The wedding ring falls and breaks,

and the marriage is on the rocks.

Then the doll falls and breaks.

The doll is the child wounded by divorce.

 

However, there is one family on the stage that has won the contest.

They made a judgment call early on.

 

They saw they couldn’t keep all the items going,

so they threw out the vase and cup and saucer,

and only kept the wedding ring, crucifix and doll in the air.

 

When we add too many items to the juggling act of our lives,

the very best things seem to fall and get broken.

It’s an old story.

 

I read a story of a woman who was married to a workaholic husband. 

And she was a spendthrift wife.

 

He blamed her for the spending that drove him to work harder,

and she blamed him for the work habits that drove her to loneliness,

and she went on spending sprees.

Of course, it ended in disaster.

More recently,

the Wall Street Journal described the Wall Street Widow,

the wife whose husband is married more to his company than to her.

 

These days the Wall Street Journal could be describing a lonely child,

whose parents are both married more to their companies than to one another.

 

As a priest was preparing a homily on this topic,

he was reading an article about a successful business tycoon.

 

When he read the words, "He is a self-confessed workaholic,"

he said, ' 'Oh, Oh!"

And the very next paragraph began,

"His six-year marriage . . . dissolved recently.”

 

Let’s look at the solutions we find in the lives of Mary and John the Baptist.

 

Mary teaches us to abandon the juggling act,

of trying to stuff everything possible into our lives.

 

She shows us that the way to a life of love,

is also the way to happiness.

 

She holds within her heart God and all her loved ones.

She has no room in her heart to crave things that count for little.

 

In our Advent prayer we need to learn from Mary.

We need to daily make a spiritual pilgrimage to her little home in Nazareth.

 

Use our imaginations to observe her about the house,

and picture her with Jesus and Joseph at supper and listen in.

 

Learn where true joy can be found.

Then meditate on her kinsman, John the Baptist.

 

When you think your wardrobe needs to be expanded,

look at him wearing a garment of camel's hair,

and decide you have more than enough,

and maybe some needs to be donated to the poor.

When you want a richer diet,

watch John eating grasshoppers.

 

Do we really have to spoil ourselves so much?

What do we really want?

 

We can look to Mary for an answer. 

In her we see a humble trust in God’s ways. 

 

In Mary we see a willingness to question God,

coupled with a quiet, reflective heart,

that embraces God’s answers whole-heartedly.

 

Let our daily prayer be,

“Mary, help me to prepare the way of my Lord.”