Before you go on a trip, what do you do? You prepare.

First, you select your destination and how you will get there. Then you determine what you would like to do once you arrive. Then the cost for the excursion is ascertained and taken into account. You check the climate of your destination and pack accordingly. Will you take your own food or eat out every meal?

If you have pets, you need to arrange for their care in your absence. If you will be gone for a length of time, you may want to put a hold on your mail and newspaper delivery. And once all is ready, you head out the door — ensuring several times that the door is locked securely. There are many details that need to be tended to before you can leave.

Often, it is a good practice to prepare a bit each day well ahead of your departure. Otherwise, there will most likely be a last-minute rush to get everything done; some things will be forgotten; tempers might tend to flare; and anguish expressed for not having prepared.

The First Sunday of Advent, the beginning of the Christian New Year, is Nov. 27. It begins the annual journey to Bethlehem and the beginning of new life for God’s children. The journey culminates at the manger in a stable when we celebrate God’s incarnation in the baby Jesus.

What kind of a trip will you make during the next four weeks? Will your Christmas celebration be a journey for which you prepare a bit each day? Or will it be a mad rush at the end?

Yes, there is much to do between now and Dec. 25. Yes, enjoy the shopping and decorating. Yes, enjoy the parties and camaraderie. At the same time, remember that the most important preparation needs to be your heart and soul.

Remember to prepare your heart and soul amid all other preparations. Remain focused on why there is all this preparation for Christmas: It is the celebration of God coming into this world to free humanity from the burdens of its sinful ways and win us back to him.

So, as the prophet declares: Prepare a way for the Lord! Clear a straight path for him, straight to your heart.

The Rev. Mark Broadhead is pastor at Laurel Hill Presbyterian Church and First Presbyterian Church of Crestview.