Francisco Anglero was born in Puerto Rico in 1944. His family moved to Brooklyn NY in 1949. Cisco was dark skinned and couldn't speak English well so he was beaten up almost every time he went out in the neighborhood. By the time he was old enough to defend himself, he was so full of rage that he beat his bullies with a baseball bat. By the time he was a teenager, he took up body building. Soon he had a reputation and was hired as a bouncer at bars. Eventually, he became a drug dealer.
Cisco's life was made up of violence and chaos. There was only one place of peace and love in his life.
Whenever Cisco came home, even as a small boy, his mother, who had worked hard cooking and cleaning all day, would be sitting in a rocking chair reading her Bible. Though their apartment was cluttered and crowded, there was a clear path from the front door to her rocking chair in the living room. Cisco would walk towards his mother and she would smile at him, rock in her chair and say, "thank God, my son, that you are safe."
Cisco never thought about his mother much. But she was always there, straight across the room, rocking in her chair and loving him. He would walk towards her and she would smile every time and thank God for his safety.
When Cisco was 22, his mother died suddenly and his life really began to spiral out of control. Cisco finally was caught with drugs and thrown in jail. Two men in prison kept asking him to come to church services but he refused. He would turn up his Walkman really loud, roll over in bed, and ignore them. But the men came every week. They would not give up. It really irritated him.
One Sunday morning, the men came by and Cisco started to ignore them but his Walkman wouldn't work. He tried to turn on the TV. It too wouldn't work. He had just replaced the batteries in his walkman. Why wasn't it working? And what about the TV? He said no to the men and rolled over in bed but all he could hear was the other guys snoring and all of a sudden he was crawling out of his skin. So he got up and went to church.
He stood in the back while the people sang. And there, up at the front, he saw his mother. She was looking right at him, singing and smiling. When they asked people to come forward, she waved him up. He saw the path, the aisle between the metal folding chairs, wide open and he walked toward her. Cisco received the bread and the wine and his life changed forever. Leaving the altar, he looked back and his mother was no where to be seen. But he knew that everything had changed for him. Somehow, his love for his mother had given him a way to find God.
John the Baptist gave up a life of privilege as the high priests son to go out into the wilderness alone and listen for God. As Zechariah's son, John would have had the best education, a beautiful home, good food. Everyone expected great things from the high priests son. But John had other plans. John knew that the Messiah was going to come into the world and that he had to leave his life of privilege in order to make room for Christ to come. He left his parents, his home, his education and he lived as a homeless man in the wilderness. People thought he had gone mad. Why would he give all that up? People came out to see him and John kept yelling, over and over again, "make your paths straight!"
"Make your paths straight!"
I never understood what John meant.
What does a path have to do with anything? And why do we need to make it straight?
Have you ever been lost in the woods and you can't see where you are going? Have you ever been so busy or angry or so sad that you feel totally lost?
I think John was talking about making room for Christ to find you. John was talking about making room in your life, a straight path for God to find you. I think of the way John left wealth and privilege to make room for God. I think of the way that Cisco, when his life was nothing but chaos and violence, saw a clear path from the front door of his apartment to his mother's rocking chair. And it was that one person who truly loved him, his mother, that was the straight path that he found to God, when the rest of his life was cluttered with violence, fear and anger. When God called him, God simply showed him the path to his mother.
How can God reach you if you are so busy that there is no way to find you? Have you covered yourself with self-pity or grief or worry? We must clear a path, make a way for us to find God and for love to find us.
In New England, when it snows, the very next morning you must go outside with a shovel and work really hard to clear a path to your front door, to shovel out your driveway. This work is back-breaking. In the same way, when we go through hardships, loss or pain, they can blanket our lives, absorbing our every thought, our every moment. In these times, we must work extra hard to clear a path for God, to find a way back to love.
Making room in your life for God in this day and age is hard work. There are so many reasons why you can't make time for church or for prayer. Travel, work, family obligations...they prevent us from taking time to worship. They clutter our lives and they seem so urgent at the time. One family I know just realized that they didn't have time for church anymore. But what happens when there is no room in your life for God at all? What happens when there is no path for Christ to come? Is anything worth blocking his way to you? Is anything really that important? We all have the same number of hours in the day. Have you carved out a few of those hours for God?
You have only two more Sundays until Christ's birth. Clear away the clutter and find a path to Him. It is never too late.