by Debbonnaire Kovacs
The second candle in the Advent wreath is called the Bethlehem Candle and the Preparation Candle. I find that intriguing. How does Bethlehem connect with preparation? Several answers come to mind.
How did Joseph and Mary prepare for the trip? It seems to me that they'd be so overwhelmed with the beauty and majesty and excitement of the angel's proclamation about Who this Baby Would Really Be that they could hardly think to pack! But. . . I've been overwhelmed by God's beauty and majesty and excitement quite a few times in my life, and I have to honestly admit, the glory fades in the face of day-to-day life. Or, as Jack Kornfeld (Ph. D., Buddhist monk, spiritual writer) puts it, "After the ecstasy, the laundry." So maybe they were more concerned with donkey feed and warm shoes and food for the journey (and worrying about backache, at 8 1/2 months along) than with Preparation for the Blessed Event. Still, when Mary tucked in the linen swaddling bands she'd spun and woven so carefully, I know she thought about that baby. I know she did!
How did Bethlehem prepare for the Visitation? Or did they, at all? The hostels and inns certainly bought extra food and hired extra hands, but that was because of the tax thing. I've often wondered, did the one who loaned them his stable say crossly, "Oh, fine, go to the cave, then! Share with the animals!" Or "Oh, dear, I wish I did have room! We have to do something! What about–well, we have the cave. . .? Will that do? I'm so sorry!" and offer help with the birthing? And in either case, what was the attitude afterwards, after the shepherds and their wild story?
How did the shepherds prepare? Were they really sitting around discussing the prophecies and wishing? What would it have been like to actually see and hear those angels? (I think I would have fainted.) And then, the journey, and the baby, who I'm sure looked just as wrinkly and unfinished and maybe funny-skulled as any other newborn. How strange! But they never forgot. I'm sure of that.
How did the angels prepare? Were they practicing their Hallelujahs? Eagerly hanging on God's words, waiting for the signal? How many were getting in each other's way hovering around that donkey and then over the stable? (Do angels get in each other's way? Or can a zillion really dance on the head of a pin?)
The Priceless Question:
How am I preparing today? For the celebration of Advent One: Which is higher on my radar–presents and parties and cookies (all good things, mind you) or devotion and caring and compassion and repentance? For Advent Two: Well, come to think of it, the comparisons are the same. Maybe not as many cookies or presents (though I don't know why) but the need for repentance and compassion and Hallelujahs is even greater, it seems to me.
He's coming! Pass it on!