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More or Less Church

Joanna Depue "DJ/Deacon J" writes original songs and liturgies, does daily Farm office work and records Barbara's eMos on The Geranium Farm. A singer and dog trainer she utilizes healing touch in her private massage practice. PLEASE share YOUR original ideas for worship, special liturgies, prayers, songs, sermons and noteworthy blogs right here.
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Friday, December 07, 2012

Friday Focus: Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah, "The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'"     Luke 3:1-6

We really know it’s Advent when John the Baptist comes wading at us out of the Jordan. While these events obviously happen long after the Nativity, John’s message strikes just the right note for our run-up to Christmas: Prepare ye the way of the Lord. This year the call is more timely than ever. As survivors of Sandy, many of us are still coping with its aftermath. We have all seen, and many of us have paid, the price of being unprepared.

We know from long experience that life is full of surprises. But somehow they keep surprising us. Advent and Christmas should come as no surprise. And yet every year, December is a blur. We find ourselves stuffing more and more activity into less and less time. No wonder some retailers start ringing their jingle bells right after Labor Day. They have to catch up with the year-round Christmas stores that satisfy some primal, mid-summer urge to acquire an animated, musical Santa or a giant, inflatable Frosty.

What do you imagine is the Baptist’s take on our monumental foolishness? What would he make of the bargain-hunting, blood-lust of Black Friday and Cyber Monday? Is he laughing or crying, or both? With the single exception of Jesus, John is arguably the most outspoken figure we meet in the gospels. He may have lived on honey, but he doesn’t sugar-coat his words. He doesn’t suggest we get our act together when we find the time or we’re in the mood. He’s been sent to shake things up. And he’s the right man for the job. Imagine what he’d say if we ran into him at the mall? Doubtless he’d repeat Isaiah’s words: Haven’t I told you over and over: Prepare ye the way of the Lord. How many Advents are you going to throw away repeating the same mindless nonsense that you dare to call Christmas? What part of Prepare ye the way of the Lord don’t you understand?

Sure, John, we get it. Your message is pretty plain. The problem is we don’t really take it seriously. It’s one of those familiar religious admonitions that we seal off in the sleepy part of our brain, where we keep the unimportant stuff. But just like the folks who live at the foot of a volcano or in a flood zone, we fail to recognize what is important at our grave peril.  We forget that we are here for only one reason, and it’s not to get the most stuff at the lowest prices or satisfy an out of control social schedule. We are here to love and serve the Lord, wherever that takes us.

 It would be very tidy to put a big rhetorical bow on these reflections, to wrap them up with a ringing call to heed John’s warning. Case closed. But we know better, and so does God. It’s a good bet that few of us are great saints or great sinners. It’s a safe bet that many of us are slouching along spiritually. Sure, we know we should prepare the way of the Lord, but we’ve got a few really important things to do first. Like everyone who has ever been caught unprepared, we’ll get around to it sometime.

Make this Advent different. Every day, let’s turn our vague intentions into a single, deliberate act of love. God knows and loves us in our foolishness as well as our goodness. For every inch we move towards him, he will come a mile. Let’s sweep aside the junk that litters the way of the Lord. One act of kindness, one act of forgiveness, one moment of devotion at a time…prepare for a Christmas of living and sharing the love of Christ. That’s the way of the Lord.  


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