“Prepare Ye The Way”

Photos by Lynne Zehr

A large crowd gathers downtown to share a time of waiting. Surrounded by the soft glow of downtown store marquees and Christmas lights, friends and strangers come to huddle and sing around an unlit tree.

These friends and strangers, it turns out, all play an important part. They’re on a rescue mission, whether they know it or not.

Thousands of people congregate here in the city’s center each month during these First Fridays events. We wait for them all month because the celebrations bring our city together.

Tonight, everyone is bundled up and waiting for something bigger. Especially my boys. They’re waiting to light the city’s Christmas tree with Mayor Allan Kauffman.

While we stand together, the passers-by hear the harmony of our waiting, and many stop to join our singing. Among these smiling singers, I run into cast members from a former community production of Godspell, and my mind returns to its opening scene because the anticipation on the street tonight somehow feels the same.

As the audience waited for that show to begin, thousands of bubbles suddenly appeared, filling the cavernous space of our historic downtown theatre. They came from the balcony and stage, as well as from people planted throughout the audience. Joy was everywhere.

Prepare ye the way of the Lord,” sang John the Baptist at the show’s opening.

Up to this point, the prophet spent his life in a dry place of waiting. Finally, though, his cry of celebration erupted and pointed everyone toward the fulfillment of their waiting.

As the characters danced down the aisles of the theatre, they left their lives of isolation to join others in celebration. I felt their joy.

Like a wet bubble popping in my face.

Tonight as we sing our Christmas carols, our crowd continues growing. Somehow, we discover growth in our waiting.

But Henry and James stand still. Like their father, they aren’t necessarily moved to sing during seasons of waiting. To them, waiting feels really hard. Anyone can see the evidence underneath James’ oversized sock monkey hat, where his sour face escapes like a long, upside-down curl.

Finally, though, the mayor arrives. Our boys remain serious, knowing they have “important work” to do. In their minds, they will prepare the way to Christmas, tonight, for all of Goshen. Their eyes are focused and bright.

And once it’s time, in their mind, they don’t need a countdown. In fact, they completely disregard it. Getting a little ahead of Mayor Kauffman, James lights the tree before Goshen is officially ready.

But the people laugh and cheer, anyway. Because deep down they’re ready, too.

Maybe our waiting is best done in groups. Somehow, when we open our hands to a larger community, our shared songs spread among us and cover our waiting.

It’s the story of grace entering our space. Like a wet bubble popping in our face.

It feels good, too, even to those who haven’t yet learned to embrace the joy of waiting. Like my boys.

Okay. Like me.

Before last night, I didn’t associate John the Baptist’s song with Christmas. But now his words sound like the proper answer to my own season of waiting.

“Prepare ye the way.”

These words give bold, new direction to my waiting. But waiting is hard, even as we wait together. So if I ever lose sight of my command, then please, all you friends and strangers, come huddle and sing around me.

Until I’m wet in the face.

(Photos by Lynne Zehr)

This post is being shared with Laura Boggess for …

And also with L.L. Barkat for …
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25 thoughts on ““Prepare Ye The Way”

  1. It’s so hard to find joy in waiting. And you’re right, I have never associated that song “Prepare Ye the Way” to Christmas before. But it’s right there, as you so eloquently point out. My daughter’s high school drama club performed that musical two years ago. I remember it well.

    As always, another great post.

    • People get ready, there’s a train a comin’
      You don’t need no baggage, you just get on board
      All you need is faith to hear the diesels hummin’
      Don’t need no ticket, you just thank the Lord

      Mmm-hmm. Mighty glad to see you’re on board, too.

    • You are very wise, Charlotte. We often get stuck waiting for good things in life — traffic lights, sunlight, even diamonds. Yes, the wait can be hard, but truth and wisdom can shine brilliantly in the end. So worth it. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. I always appreciate your words.

  2. The waiting is hard. But you are right — the community, the presence of others, the sharing and passing the time and conversations that happen during the waiting, it all becomes a proxy for the thing we are waiting for.

    Enjoyed this!

    • Interesting point: “… it all becomes a proxy for the thing we are waiting for.” That adds a new layer of meaning for me as I think about both the purpose and the gift of our communal presence. A proxy. Thanks for that.

  3. We had the “Godspell” soundtrack when I was a little girl and I love that song. I’d sing it in the basement while I skated in circles, and I believed that God could hear me.

    • That’s a beautiful picture. He does hear us, even when we spin in circles. And God must be hearing me pretty well these last few days, too, because I can’t get that song out of my head. But I do kinda like it there …

      If anyone hasn’t heard the song, or if it’s just been a long time, they need to click the link included in this post. Maybe others would like to go roller skating with us?

  4. I love this: “Maybe our waiting is best done in groups. Somehow, when we open our hands to a larger community, our shared songs spread among us and cover our waiting.”

    Yes! This is so true, Matthew. We need each other in the waiting. A beautiful post, my friend. It makes me want to sing.

    • So glad you found something that speaks to you. We hear lots of voices while we wait. We need to listen to the right ones.

      It felt like a good metaphor to watch our singing crowd grow as we waited for the tree-lighting. The mayor was late, so we had to wait a little longer. Not everyone was happy about that, especially my boys. Still, in our waiting, we were growing. Thanks for stopping by today, Shelly.

  5. We do have to learn to “embrace the joy of waiting”, don’t we? And as children we are usually so impatient. . the waiting feels endless until Christmas morning. . sometimes a day feels like 10 when young.
    And bubbles? Oh my. I wrote a post called “BUBBLES OF GRACE” in late November. You may want to stop by and take a look. Interesting that we both see grace in bubbles. How amazing is that?
    Blessings to you new friend.

    • I’m so thankful for a God who will seek me out — in both loneliness and crowds. He shows up. He always does. Even when I’m looking in the wrong places. Thanks for your comments, David.

  6. What sweet family memories for you all! And what a wonderful analogy in the midst of it. I love it when God catches our hearts and our attention like that – out of the blue – it’s such a sweet gift. Thanks for sharing this for this second Sunday in Advent.

    • Thank goodness He knows to catch our hearts and attention when we most need It. Before the evening began, part of me didn’t even want to go downtown. Why would I need to surround myself with lots of other bustling voices when I’ve already got enough noise in my head? Oh, silly me. We need to hear people’s voices.

      And thank you for sharing yours here today!

  7. Waiting has never come easily to me. I am a very impatient person at best. Yet as I seek Jesus every day the waiting has become more of an anticipation rather then impatience on my part. I accept delays and opposition looking forward to a life with Jesus.
    Thank you for reminding me that the best is yet to come.
    You have a wonderful gift in your writing.
    God bless.

    • Waiting is not easy at all. I like how you describe that our experience of waiting changes as we seek Jesus first. In the process, we grow in anticipation. That’s exactly how I want to open my eyes each morning: looking at Jesus instead of at some murky mess that I can’t control.

  8. The joy in the kids eyes are worth it .. This Month is a month of Joy .. The birth of Our King is not only a joy but a blessing and for us to recall all His goodness yesterday, today and or ever .

    • Joy is such a mysterious thing. When we see it sparkling in the eyes of others, it has the the power to usurp the throne of all our gloom-and-doom thinking.

      So even if they take a while to leave town, joy still begins a new reign. I am thankful for the eyes of friends and strangers.

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