Today's message from church, based on Isaiah 40:1-11 and Mark 1:1-8

We all know that Christmas is coming and so we need to start to prepare for that.
So, this time of year, we bring out all the holiday stuff that needs to be put up.
And, in order to do that, usually we have to prioritize that stuff in lieu of other stuff.
We need to move furniture and remove existing things for where the tree needs to go.
Because, with the coming of Christmas, all that holiday stuff takes precedence!

But, for me, each year there are three things that get in the way more than furniture.
I’ll call them the three ‘Ds’ - distractions;…. delay;…. and denial.
I get distracted with other things in life and so putting up Christmas stuff is set aside.
And then I go into the delay mode where I say ‘I’ll get around to that later’.
Finally, is the denial part where I say ‘Do we really need to do that again this year?’.

Last week we heard the bible lessons and Jesus tell us to be ready to watch for God.
God coming into our lives is what Advent and Christmas is all about.
We are told to be alert and look for when God does that even still today.
So we are ‘looking for’ God and Jesus Christ to be welcomed into our hearts and lives.

But besides being alert, there is another thing we need to do for that to happen.
We need to remove any obstacles to welcoming and allowing God to come to us.
Both the Old Testament prophet Isaiah and Gospel reading that quotes him say this.
The words from scripture say; 
“Prepare the way of the Lord.  
Make straight in the desert a highway for our God.  
Every valley lifted up and every mountain and hill made low: the uneven ground shall become level and the rough places made plain.”

As I thought about that concept, I realized that this is not just an abstract idea.
Plenty of other scripture tells us that we need to do exactly that - prepare the way.
We need to clear away what interferes with our prioritizing God in our lives.
We have to smooth out and remove what might get in the way of God’s coming to us.

So three things,…obstacles,…came to mind that can hinder our ability to do that.
These are things that are very much a part of our everyday lives and who we are. 
As it turns out, once again all three begin with the letter ‘D’.
I’ll call them the three ‘Ds’ in the way of God coming to me.

The first ‘D’ is for distractions.
We are distracted by many, many things in life.
Jobs and careers;…family and obligations with that;…. financial worries to name a few.
And there are things on TV, what’s going on in the news, and our regular routines.
All these and other distractions draw us away from looking for God coming to us.
They distract us from taking the time for and paying attention to God’s appearances.

The second ‘D’ is for the delay that we engage in bothering to look for God.
We know we ought to be looking for God’s role in our life, but we put it off.
We know God is there….somewhere…..around us, but we postpone being open to it.
When we delay any effort to see God coming to us …….God gets lost in life. 

The third ‘D’ is probably the hardest to clear away - the denial that we cling to.
Denial that we have done things wrong and need to confess to God.
Denial that we need to confess what we’ve failed to do that’s right or what God wants.
We may even say ‘Do I really have to do that again?”
But if we have no guilt and live in a constant state of denial, then we deceive ourselves. 
Worse than that, if we live in denial then we have no need for God.
We have no need for Jesus Christ’s forgiveness and God’s grace in our lives.
Then, we are less apt to want to invite and welcome God into our lives.

When we allow ourselves to focus on distractions that push aside God’s presence,…
When we delay any attempt to see that God is real and really at work with us,,….
When we live in denial that we need God’s approval and forgiveness,…..
Then we are too preoccupied, too mis-focused, and too stubborn to see God. 
Then we live a life that is largely absent from God….. even though God is always there.

So maybe we can begin the new year by preparing the way for the Lord.
I’m not saying ignore our obligations and all that fills up our daily lives.
Nor am I telling you that paying our bills, our careers and family doesn’t matter.
And I don’t want you to beat yourself up with guilt.

But we all need to clear away whatever stand in our way of allowing God into our lives.
To re-focus a little and prioritize things that really matter in life and God’s role in that.
And to more readily accept that we might have sinned and are in need of forgiveness.

To prepare the way is the best way to be aware of God’s presence in our lives.
It’s the best way to welcome the baby Jesus into our world.
And the best way to celebrate the meaning of the Christmas gift Jesus brings to us.
Clear away the junk and make room for God’s love and grace in our lives.