They are working on our street now. Several years ago, we had a major flood in our town and now they are laying large drains under the street to prevent the kind of damage many local home and business owners suffered. In addition, they are using the opportunity to beautify the downtown area and our neighborhood with new streets and sidewalks, complete with wider walks, benches, and streetlights.
It is anything but beautiful now.
Road construction is a mess. In preparation for working on the road itself, underground utilities had to be upgraded and moved. That means our yard and the yards of our neighbors were dug up, trenches opened, new lines laid and then covered up again. Tree workers appeared one day and began removing trees, many of them decades old, transforming the look of our quaint, shaded midwestern community. We have a huge stump where once a thirty foot oak shaded our front lawn. Twenty years ago, a grass median was planted between the sidewalks and street, and trees planted up and down our street. The median is now gone. The trees are gone. A wide ribbon of gravel replaces them. The city will be planting new trees next year, but it will be twenty years before they will look like the ones in the median we lost. And my family will never again see the kind of shade in our front yard that we have known and enjoyed since moving into this house a decade ago.
It is only going to get worse. The actual road construction is now a couple of blocks south of us. Each day workmen are digging up the middle of the road and laying large drains below. They’re moving our way. Until then, all of us who drive through town are experiencing disruption to our routines. Access to streets, driveways, and alleys is blocked off. Children have to go to different bus stops. I imagine that visitors to our town who are depending on GPS devices for directions are having to figure out alternate routes on the fly.
Dirt. Dust. Gravel. Bare ground. Stumps. Smoke-emitting construction machinery. Noise. Disruption. Detours. Mess.
Welcome to Advent.
Prepare for God’s arrival!
Make the road straight and smooth,
a highway fit for our God.
Fill in the valleys,
level off the hills,
Smooth out the ruts,
clear out the rocks.
Then God’s bright glory will shine
and everyone will see it.
Yes. Just as God has said.
- Isaiah 40:3-5 (MSG)
* * *
The book of Isaiah foretold that God would come to his people, bringing salvation and eternal comfort. Before he appeared, a voice would arise in the wilderness to announce that he was on his way. The voice would call the people to initiate a giant road construction project. Make a way for the Lord! was a cry to start tearing up the ground, leveling the high places, and filling in the valleys. It was time to build a new road.
Before the blessing, the mess.
Before the smooth, new highway, the mud and dust and gravel.
Before God comes in triumphant parade, a motley collection of road workers, construction vehicles, shovels, picks, and rakes.
Before a peaceful, tree-lined boulevard, a barren landscape of trenches, dirt and gravel piles, stumps, and warning signs.
Before the pleasant sidewalks, quaint benches and streetlights, we trip over uneven ground and have to wipe the mud and mess off our shoes before entering the house.
With Christmas, as with everything important in life, there is the product and there is the process by which we get there.
Advent is the process.
Dig up the ground. Blast through the mountain. Lay the pipes underground. Dump the fill from those bucket loaders.
It’s rough. It’s ugly. It seems to take forever.
But in the end, when you sit on your front porch, greeting your neighbors strolling by, sipping your iced tea and watching the kids play in the yard; when you’re in a place of comfort and joy that feels like home because love is there and the world all around you has been made new and beautiful, you realize the process is worth it all.