Dec. 10, 2018 Prepare Him Room
He’s one heck of a crossing guard this John, son of Zechariah. We’re probably more accustomed to reading John the Baptist on his name tag. But Luke takes care to remind us that this is the grown-up son of the astonished Zechariah and Elizabeth.
Even before his birth, the angel surprised his elderly parents-to-be with news that John would be the one who would guide the way. John would be the one who would “make ready a people prepared for the Lord”.
Now he stands poised to do just that.
Luke sets his location in history. Luke plots his exact coordinates for us.But unlike the other gospel writers Luke does not describe John’s uniform. But whether he was decked out in camel’s hair or not whether he had grasshoppers in his lunch pail or not this John, son of Zechariah, was definitely one heck of a crossing guard!
Just look at him! There he stands and there is no getting around him. Every single gospel writer introduces Jesus by talking about John, which means that in some way or another This hairy crossing guard is God’s idea.
There’s simply no getting around him. John’s job? He stands there to clear a pathway for the Word of God by blowing the whistle on our inattention. John makes sure no one misses the major spiritual roadblock of unawareness.
“Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be brought low [and] the crooked shall be made straight
and the rough ways shall be made smooth…
(And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.)
Of course, as Luke reminds us, John takes his cue from words Isaiah shouted hundreds of years before. Isaiah - who was Israel’s poetic prophet of the Babylonian exile. Now these Israelites were folks who knew and who admitted what it felt like to be lost, who knew what it felt like to stumble along blindly- unaware and often unappreciative of God’s work on their behalf. With grit between their teeth,
they’d been herded down dusty roads away from Jerusalem, away from home- away from all familiar landmarks to the strange sights and smells of an alien land wandering, once again, in the wilderness farther and farther from home.
Surely God had forgotten them- it was too late, too much water under the bridge- in fact the bridge was washed away. Yet right smack in the middle of their desolation God sends his poetic prophets to blow the whistle on Israel’s unawareness.
Another poetic prophet of the exile echoes Isaiah. Baruch stands poised to stop this despairing people right in their tracks with these words:
Arise, O Jerusalem, stand upon the height;
Look toward the east, and see your children
gathered from west and east…rejoicing that God
has remembered them
God has ordered that every high mountain
and the everlasting hills be made low-
the valleys filled up, to make level ground
so that Israel may walk safely in the glory of God.
We simply can not get around these poet-prophet crossing guards or past their message to:
Prepare the way of the Lord!
Which is to expect God’s intrusions all along the way. What better time than Advent to stop and name our own fretful times of exile. Times when with gritted teeth, we long for but despair of ever finding familiar landmarks. Times when the chaos of collapsed relationships, the morning paper or a dire medical diagnosis cause us to stumble in darkness, perhaps to lose our way.
In Advent, these crossing guards loom up to shout:
The God who created all heaven and earth will level all obstacles to prepare for our return.
But first, but first we must turn around. Remember? To turn around is the best translation for “repent”, to turn around. “Prepare the way of the Lord” is an invitation to act, Not a suggestion to go watch some wayside construction project. Because it is by God’s grace we’re able to trust that there is another way that there is another One, One to turn around for One who knows us… and loves us - warts and all.
To turn around, God’s crossing guards remind us, we must be aware of God’s promise: Every high mountain and the everlasting hills will be made low. The valleys filled up to make level ground so that we may walk safely in the glory of God.
So the only real obstacle to our return from exile is our own Himilayan refusal to remain attentive to God. Sleep-walking through most of our days, and thus confusing our ways with God’s ways. To repent, which is to make our confession
before Almighty God is like approaching an intersection in mid-town Manhattan at the height of rush hour.
We look, we listen, we choose. We decide not to sleep walk through the chaos. Instead we take the crossing guard’s lead and turn toward the One who stands ready to move all heaven and earth for our return.
Trusting, knowing that once we choose to turn major earthmoving has already begun in us. When we repent- we’ve already begun the big U- turn back to God who loves us beyond all imagining.
These divine crossing guards are God’s idea. They remind us that God intends to transform the landscape of our hearts
by tearing down mountains, lifting up valleys, straightening out crooked roads all for one purpose – so that we may welcome Him home into the rooms of our hearts.
In this holy season of Advent, may heaven and nature sing, and every heart --- Prepare him room.
12/9/2018 - Advent 2- Year C - The Reverend Anne Bridgers