Friday Focus: Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord
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.
The WHOLE Bible In a Year
Barbara mentioned this program in her eMo just before the arrival of the pumpkins at St. Luke's in October.
The Center for Biblical Studies has put together a listing of all the books of the Bible in a format that - if you spend only 15 minutes a day on the exercise - will having you read the entire Bible in a year.
Episcopalians are people of "The Book", but many of us are familiar primarily with the four Gospels and several of the Psalms. Here's one way to stretch your biblical muscles ... and learn a lot of history and stories you have never experienced before.
Click on this link for a description of the program and a listing of the daily readings: http://thecenterforbiblicalstudies.org/read-the-bible-in-a-year/