This article was originally published by The Mennonite

Advent day eight: Straight paths

Ken Hochstetler is president and CEO of Everence, a faith-centered financial services organization and an agency of Mennonite Church USA.

Read all of the 2015 Advent reflections. 

As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet:
“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
Make straight paths for him…’” Luke 3:4

This one calling in the wilderness was John the Baptist. He prepared for Jesus’ coming, just as we are this Advent season. John straightened paths for Christ’s arrival.

When we prepare for significant events in the future, we desire a good straight path. We want things to work out well, so we plan ahead. At Everence, one of the most important actions we recommend to individuals is “to plan,” so I identify with the Advent act of preparation.

One way most of us prepare for Christmas is giving gifts. This practice of giving can also be an attempt to emulate God with our gifts to others as an expression of love. God’s gift of Jesus models an outpouring of love on humans.

Kenneth Boulding, a renowned 20th century British economist and Quaker, spoke of three kinds of transactions we have with each other: those based on threat, exchange or love. God’s economy is built on the third kind, with acts based on love for the world.

Does preparation help us act out of love? Certainly, preparation allows us to pause and be intentional about turning thoughts of compassion into actions. As Anabaptists, we appreciate the importance of acting on our Christian faith to share with others.

One kind of Christmas gift often requiring preparation is the gift of money to charity. I can attest that many Anabaptists are acting on that part of their faith, intentionally sharing their resources with others. Everence helps them give lots of money away this time of year!

As we prepare during this Advent season, we also hear news of war, violence and hatred. Pain is found in every corner of the globe as well as in our own lives, families and communities. It’s impossible to make every path straight – even with all our resources of faith, love and money.

But we can prepare to receive not only the love of God but the mystery of God. We can let go of control and be vulnerable as Jesus was in the manger. John the Baptist prepares us for this way of the Lord.

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