As soon as the news of the pope’s visit to the Philippines in 2015 was announced, local authorities began earnest preparations both for the church and for the civil society.  They started beautifying the surroundings, finishing stalled construction work, moving people from evacuation sites to newly-built homes.
One community of poor evacuee-families was to be removed so that the pope will not see the sorry plight of the people one year after the tragedy.  But the people protested and demanded that they want the pope to see them as he passes by. They want the pope to see them as they really are – poor and miserable and all!
If we can think of so many preparations for the coming of an important church dignitary from Rome, all the more must we prepare our hearts and our world for the coming of the beloved Son of God and Savior of the world.
That is why John the Baptist continues to disturb us with his mission and his message: I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, make straight the way of the Lord.  He makes clear that he is not the Messiah. And yet, he is working hard so that people may be ready to welcome the One who is greater. Jesus will not baptize with water but with the Spirit of God.
Now that Christmas is near, are we really prepared for the encounter of a lifetime, the meeting with our Lord? John is full of humility as he prepares his own heart for Christ – I am not worthy to unite his sandal strap. 
Are we also full of humility, joy, generosity, and love as we approach the birth of the Savior? Avoid cosmetic change. Avoid short-lived change. Instead, let us prepare our hearts by making straight the way of the Lord within us. amen.