Advent a time of waiting, clearing obstacles

Sister Rachel Bergschneider, OSB

Living the Word / By Sister Rachel Bergschneider, OSB

Second Sunday of Advent/Dec. 5

Baruch 5:1-9; Psalm 126:1-2,2-3,4-5,6; Philippians 1:4-6,8-11; Luke 3:1-6

In the days of the Baal Shem Tov, the saintly founder of this particular tradition of Hassidism, it would happen that he would take his disciples into a quiet spot in the forest. There they would make a fire, and dancing around that fire the Baal Shem Tov would lead his disciples in the most sublime prayers, lifting them, so to speak, out of themselves in ecstasy. Of course, both fire and dancing have long been symbols of human beings’ relationship with God.

After the death of the saint, the disciples continued to go to that spot in the forest, to light the fire, to dance. But they could not remember how to pray, and their excursions were not the same. Indeed, in the course of time they forgot to dance, and later they no longer lit the fire. Eventually even the place of encounter was forgotten. An era had passed and an experience was now lost.

As the world opens this year to the joy of preparing for Christmas with shopping, party going, and family gatherings, our lives can get overtaken with activity and excitement. We can get lost in the bustle of gift lists, gift wrapping and gift giving.

We are happy to put behind the quiet time we had during the last Christmas season — the “forced” absence of gathering with family and friends. Perhaps this was a gift to us to remember why we gather to light the fire of Christ’s entrance into our world, why we dance to celebrate the joy of that simple birth of God’s Son. Perhaps the forest, the fire, the dance, and the prayer have been lost only to be replaced by stores, shopping, and things.


The words of John the Baptizer in today’s Gospel are wise. He is heard saying, “Make ready the way of the Lord, clear him a straight path; every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be leveled. The windings shall be made straight and the rough ways smooth. And all shall see the salvation of God.” (Luke 3:4-6)

Anyone who has seen mountains and valleys might question leveling the mountain or filling in the valley. How are we able to do this impossible task? If we look at the mountains in our life or the rough ways we face every day, we see the challenge John is speaking about.

Advent is a time to confront these obstacles. To clear a path for the Lord to more deeply enter our life is a daily occurrence. It is a time to get rid of the brush, the boulders that stop us. Advent is a time of waiting. Some days we see movement; some days we are simply waiting. But it is waiting . . . waiting on ourselves to move forward. We do this with the knowledge and hope that God is with us on this journey.

Ours is the story of hope. It is the story of one man entering the world in the lowest of circumstances with a message that will bring back the fire, the dance, and the prayer. It is a story of promise that we will see the salvation of God.

In his letter to the Philippians, St. Paul expresses it well: “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ.” (Philippians 1:9-10)

SISTER RACHEL BERGSCHNEIDER, OSB, is a member of the Sisters of St. Benedict of St. Mary Monastery, Rock Island. She ministers at the Peoria County Jail, serving as a facilitator in the Jobs Partnership program.

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