While We Wait – Let’s Prepare
Bible Readings: Malachi 3:1-4 & Luke 3:1-6
Most holy Friend, you never leave us unprepared for the new things you are about to do.
Grant that we, like those who heard the call of your prophets Malachi and John,
heed the prophets of our generation, and find that true repentance which prepares us for new life.
Through Christ Jesus, who with you in the joy of the Holy Spirit
are the goal of all love and worship, now and forever.
Last week, during the first week of Advent, we focussed our prayers, our Bible readings, the sermon and our songs on the hopeful waiting for Christ’s new presence amongst us.
But waiting and keeping an eye to the horizon is not the only step towards Christmas. We are called to prepare the way for the Lord’s coming, while we wait.
You might think – how do we do this?
Well we refocus our thoughts; we try to push aside old routines and put in new ones and, we do the groundwork to make change happen.
Both Malachi and Luke have something to say about this.
The Old Testament author prophetically writes, ‘see I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me’.
Who is this messenger? Of course, in hindsight, it is Jesus or at least John the Baptiser but isn’t it also Malachi and you and I?
In the Luke reading, we read about those such as John and again you and I who prepare the way, fill in the valleys, cut through the mountains and make the crooked roads straight.
This takes my mind to the Gerringong and Berry bypass – construction work that’s been happening as long as we’ve been here and much longer before that. The new roads and bridges have been built – not through a wilderness or desert in an Israel sense – but still through some open and wilder places and spaces. Cuttings have been made – so hills are not so formidable and fill has been placed in low places or bridges placed to span streams and swamps. The winding one lane rough roads have been replaced by a multi-lane smoother straighter highway.
Yes, it is painful for many of us travelling slowly along the way near new roads still being prepared and built – but we know [as we have already had a taste] the completed project will have many benefits.
We have to have a wilderness, like a new canvas, before we lay the foundations and prepare for a new thing to occur.
John came out of the wilderness/desert – to preach and baptize. Moses came out of the wilderness – back to Pharaoh – to challenge him and free his people from slavery in Egypt.
Jesus stepped out of the wilderness near Jericho, after 40 days and 40 nights, to begin his ministry of love, healing and salvation.
But each one, John, Jesus and Moses prepared the new way by challenging the status quo – powerful persons and institutions. Luke goes to great lengths at the beginning of Chapter 3 to not only name dates and the exact timing of Jesus’ arrival, but to remind us of the political and religious leaders, such as Emperor Tiberius, Pontius Pilate, Caiaphas – who were challenged by Jesus and had to have him destroyed.
Similarly,Herod and Philip [whose wife Herodias was the subject of John’s challenge to Herod –and which ultimately resulted in John’s execution]are mentioned here. John and Jesus upset the status quo.
Nevertheless people like John, prepared the way for a new era – in time and space. He provided us with a model for courage as he said ‘speak the truth, and when you do, do not whisper it, never let your head hang low and don’t mumble, stand up straight and tall and shout out your message, no matter what the consequences.
John stepped out of the wilderness to prepare the way, to be an agent for change through the power of the spoken word – words that Malachi says, clean us like soap, and refine and purify us like fire.
How do WE take up the challenge and prepare the way of the Lord?
Do we do anything or say anything about the consumerist push in the months leading up to Christmas?
Do we do anything or say anything about the push to have Christian school scripture banned?
What do we say about the push to stop symbols of Christ appearing at Christmas or to have Christian hymns taken off the playlist in shopping mall?
Are we too comfortable, too compliant to say anything?
Or,if we complain is it only to like-minded people?
Do we simply reason that someone else will make a stand, or more commonly, that faith and belief became a private and individual things, not to be shared with unbelievers?
If it has, we need to be reminded it is not the way of Jesus, John, Malachi and Moses.
Our words too are meant to heal, soothe, bring peace, work for justice, and challenge complacent thinking – in order ‘to prepare the way of the Lord’.
A word inviting a neighbour to church may change a life. A word spoken in someone’s defense may right an injustice. A word about Jesus may save a soul.
We look back at Jesus’ words as John looked back to Isaiah’s words of centuries before to see a way forward that readies us to make straight the paths of our lives.
Those of you who are asking for God’s presence must prepare for it, making room for it in the midst of much life-cluttering activity and stuff.
So you want to invite Jesus to your home and heart. First, make sure there is room for him. Remember the invitation is for him, not for you. Take out any damaging distractions, make smooth what is rough, straighten what is crooked, be patient in the waiting for the road to open and persevere in your efforts to see it through.
The messenger cries, ‘Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make the paths straight’.
May our church and you, as individuals, be that messenger.