A Voice Cries Out Christmas is a time for cluttering. For most of us, our calendars are already filled, and yet we find more things pushing themselves upon us. Be honest, most us know that our lives, our homes, our schedules, our world is already over stuffed and here we bring out more stuff. When we begin to decorate, boxes are pulled out from the attic, the basement, a closet or maybe from all these places. As we begin to unpack the decorations, they bring out with them so many memories. But in order to find a place to put them, we have to rearrange some of the things that are already out in our homes during the year. Most of our homes already have things filling the shelves, the tabletops, and the cabinets, and here comes more. The world doesn’t stop for Christmas. Many will still have to work or keep appointments or do those things that keep our lives running. But now we must find more time for friends and family. We add to an already hectic world more things we must do. Then there is shopping. The economic times we live in make this even a greater challenge, as we desire to please those we are giving gifts to with the budget we have to spend. This means more time and more effort. We don’t know how much the wise men paid for their gifts, much less, if they found them on sale. We really don’t know how much time or effort was invested by the shepherds, but we know that both the wise men and the shepherds all came for one reason: to worship and adore the one who came at Christmas. They were not distracted by clutter in their lives. Out of all the stars that filled the sky, the wise men stayed focused on one. The sheep had for a moment to be set aside to go to Bethlehem and see what the angels told of. John the Baptist, who speaks out in our Gospel this day, was one of the most colorful characters in all of history. He went out into the wilderness, away from the city, away from the crowds, to attract a great crowd. He seemed almost determined to fail. Despite all these things we would call poor marketing, Luke tells us that people from all over the region were flocking to hear his message. There will be new power and hope that comes from God’s presence in our lives and in our world. In these days leading up to Christmas may we see beyond the clutter of living to the hope that was born so many years ago in Bethlehem. We, too, can find the way home. The call is for us to find the way to God to be in our days and our hearts. Look at your calendar for the days between now and Christmas. Where have you set aside time for prayer, for some quiet time? A major part of uncluttering is making sure there is time for God to touch our lives and shape our days. Maybe a friend or loved one needs you more than the gift you will spend hours trying to find. Maybe more important than perfection in our decorations is a smile on our face as we spend time with those dear to us. Preparing a way means to be willing to ask some tough questions and make some hard decisions. To prepare the way of the Lord means to make choices. We must decide what we are to focus our lives and days on. We must decide what we will keep. The challenge is for us to surrender to God’s control, to prepare the way of the Lord. The challenge is to get our lives in such order, that our hearts will be open to the way of the Lord. Once we have settled the issue of who is first in our lives, we do not have to deal with the clutter of divided loyalties. The one who was born at Bethlehem will be the Lord of our lives if we are willing to let God prepare the way. The Gospel also calls for us to make the crooked places straight. We are told to make the rough ways smooth. In our lives, this may mean for us to forgive those who have hurt you, to refuse to allow what has happened to you to control your life. We need to make sure there is enough time for those that we care about. The call for us is to find a way for God to be in our days and our hearts. Those who went to the wilderness were challenged to turn and go in a new direction in their lives, leaving behind much of what they had believed and looking for a new way. Few people are kept from Christ by some great, overpowering evil. Most fail to see or hear because they are preoccupied with good things, busy at work, acquiring wealth, enjoying entertainment, being comfortable, but not seeking the best. We are challenged to unclutter our lives to find the Christ who is there with us, in us, and calling for us to come and follow.