Sermon: Sunday, 05/12/2021
Also available as a video – Sermon20211205
Luke 3:4 “As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet: “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight paths for him.'”
The musical “Godspell” made popular today’s Advent theme: “Prepare ye the way of the Lord.” We are called today to listen carefully to the story about a voice crying in the wilderness: “live prepared”.
Someone once said such a beautiful and true word that Advent is not just intended to be a preparation for Christmas, the first coming of Jesus Christ. It is also a season where we make present again that miraculous event of the birth of Jesus as we prepare for Christ’s second coming, His return to complete what He began long ago.
So in the birth of Jesus Christ the Kingdom of God has come, but also now at Advent to look forward to His coming again to bring into fullness that Kingdom He brought when He was born.
Those who believed him were to pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven,” and then with God’s help, to act as if it has come and thereby cooperate with God so it might come in its fullness, in God’s good time. Advent therefore is a season which offers us the opportunity to pray for Christ’s return and prepare for his second coming, when the world as we know it will end and creation as God intended it is brought to fruition.
So how do we live in these in between times, how do we wait for Christ’s second coming? John says to us today that we need to prepare for Christ’s second coming. How are we to live prepared? John says that we need to repent, we need to express deep sorrow and regret for our sins and also to contemplate on how we might live faithfully between the times between Christ’s first coming and second coming, between the already and the not yet of God’s new creation.
To repent means to change the direction in which we were going and spend time reflecting on the direction we need to travel on as the children of God and the church as where we need to change our direction when necessary.
So we need to change our course at times just as the sailors with the yachts that go to sea have from time to time, change their course as the tides and winds drive them off course and sometimes as they just drift along, they need to change course as they drift off course. So they have to adjust their course and make sure they are travelling in the right direction. And that is what it means to repent during the Advent season. That is what it means to prepare ye the way. It is a call for us to find the way to God to be in our days and our hearts. 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 need to decide what road we are going to travel on. You cannot travel on both roads at the same time. It is either the broad road that leads to death or the narrow road that leads to life. How we choose will make all the difference in our lives.
How we have lost our way as the children of God. How we have drifted off course, how the storms of life pushed us in another direction away from God.
We live in a world that appears to have lost a vision of new possibilities and settled for survival in this the best of all possible worlds. We have become so focused on being right, of being certain, that we are unwilling to make any changes in the course we are traveling. Too often we forget that there is no political, no economic, no cultural system that can claim to be Christian, no nation that can claim it knows and does God’s will perfectly.
In every Advent season we are offered the opportunity to reflect on our journey and to make sure that we are sailing in the right direction. Every congregation has a unique opportunity to recommit itself to a vision of God’s reign and then focus its attention on Christ’s second coming.
In the process, may we remember that God’s future may not always be the future we desire, the future that benefits us. We need to critically reflect on our lives to be sure that the future we live for is the future God envisions, the future God desires.
May God grant us the grace to have faith in a future that transforms our imaginations and makes it possible for us to live for impossible possibilities, for dreams that correspond with God’s.
Repentance in Greek means change. Change is not possible, of course, if we believe that we are already living completely faithful lives. Repentance begins with the acknowledgement that everything isn’t fine. We have been blown off course and need to make a course correction.
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. All else that could crowd into our lives is measured by the standard of His love and His grace. By failing that standard we do not allow it to deter us from following Him.
To do this, John in using the words of Isaiah, challenges us that every valley shall be filled and every mountain brought low. Those valleys or low places in our lives, such as worry or grief or doubt, can be filled with an awareness of the very presence of the living Christ. The mountains we must deal with in our hearts include pride, prejudice, fear, and selfishness. When these are brought low, we can see a greater horizon; we can see the way of the Lord.
The Gospel also calls for us to make the crooked places straight. We are challenged to confront those temptations in our lives that will lure us away, to push back the trivial that may fill our minds and hearts and seek God’s ways. We are being challenged to take the steps in our lives to deal with the major issues that we must deal with.
And 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.
One can make this way open for God to come into our lives when one can trust God enough to lay our burdens down. When the unexamined, unchallenged, have cluttered our hearts, then the way is not open. Our faith is not merely to avoid evil. That would reduce it to merely rules and commandments. The challenge is to be able to set aside some of the good that keeps us from the best.
As we approach Christmas, let each of us 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 for us is to find a way for God to be in our days and our hearts.
It is with God’s good news ringing in our hearts that we will be enabled and empowered to live faithfully with anticipation and hope between Christ’s first and second comings. May we choose to make this Advent holy by avoiding the temptation to celebrate Christmas too soon and use these four weeks to ponder where we are headed and make changes in our course, or as John the baptizer put it, “Repent,” that is, “live prepared.”