Bethel Church is putting together another Advent devotional calendar this year and again I was asked to contribute. This is my contribution. I’m looking forward to reading what others have written this year.
Prepare the Way of the Lord
… the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness. And 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 Isaiah the prophet,
The voice of one crying 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 become straight,
and the rough places shall become level ways,
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God. … Luke 3:2b-6 (ESV)
The Advent season presents a personal challenge for me. In recent years I’ve become more aware of the need to prepare they way of the Lord into my life. I often find the cultural celebration of Christmas that comes during Advent–with its parties, shopping trips and decorations–to be at odds with an approach that follows the advice of John the Baptist. John asked those who were concerned about their being ready for the Lord’s coming to repent of their sins and to adopt an new attitude of concern and justice toward others that can be meaningfully achieved only by an inward change in character (read vv. 7-14). Christians first observed Advent as a solemn time of spiritual preparation in receptiveness of Christ as Lord and for a 12 day feast that begins on Christmas Day. Now we skip the preparation. The feast starts with the Thanksgiving holiday and ends with Christmas Day, leaving us enough time to recover and celebrate the New Year. What would happen if we reclaimed the old ways, I wonder.
It’s easy to see the coming of Christ into the world as a long ago event that changed everything once and for all … in hindsight. But every year the Church calendar offers us a chance to look forward to the coming of Christ again and to reflect on what kind of people will ultimately inhabit the world he rules. The once and for all change continues and we are offered a part in it. That is the meaning of Christmas for today.
Lord, the way to my heart is crooked. I want to make it straight for you. My way is full of hills and valleys. Lead me on a level path, my Saviour and my Lord. Amen.