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Preparing for the arrival of someone important takes care and attention. Think of a family preparing to welcome a loved one home from abroad, perhaps a son or daughter who lives in Australia or someone who has been off travelling the world. They get their bedroom ready, buy their favourite foods, perhaps put up banners or even organise a ‘welcome home’ party. It is all done with great excitement and love, and is a way of easing the path home for the traveller. Or imagine new parents preparing for the arrival of a baby. There are practical considerations such as buying nappies and clothing and getting a cot ready, and of course the nerves and excitement as they prepare to welcome the new arrival.
On a larger scale, when an important dignitary visits a venue or a country, there is also a flurry of activity in preparation. We saw it in the painstaking arrangements made for the visit of Pope Francis to Ireland earlier this year. Such high profile visits often involve a literal preparation of the way – organising a welcome reception, planning the best route from the airport, clearing the streets of traffic, as well as much chatter and anticipation.
Today’s Gospel brings these two types of welcome to mind. During Advent, we prepare for the coming of Jesus by our actions, when we are generous with our time, patient with our families, and help those in need. And we do all these things with excitement and love, so that Christ will find the warmest of welcomes and a clear route into our hearts.