Prepare the Way of the Lord

 

 

Second Sunday of Advent

Isaiah 11: 1-10

Matthew 3: 1-12

“Prepare the way of the Lord!” wild John the Baptist instructs us on this second Sunday of Advent. Yes, in Advent. It might seem rather bewildering to be confronted by John in this season of expectant waiting for the arrival of Christmas, but I have grown to love his passionate presence here.

John is here in Advent to remind us of the One for whom we wait. The One who we have found incarnates Israel’s long yearning for a righteous and trustworthy Judge, who decides with equity for the meek of the earth (Isaiah 11:4b). The shoot from the stump of Jesse, whose sandals John is unworthy to carry, who carries with him a baptism of purifying fire and of the Holy Spirit. The One full of the knowledge and fear of the LORD—of what God loves, what God abhors, what God delights in, what makes God grieve.

John is here in Advent to command us to make straight the paths to our hearts and our lives. Turning these to God allows Christ to transform us, for the sake of the world God so loves, making all things new. We are called to bear the fruit worthy of this turning and transformation—generosity, humility, mercy, hope, steadfast love.

John is here in Advent to prepare us for Christ Jesus’ return, when there will be no more hurting or destruction. When the delightful vision of Isaiah 11:6-8 will come to pass: the lamb will fearlessly host the wolf as a roommate; the baby goat and leopard will have a sleepover; the calf, lion, and fatling will be best friends, and a little child will safely lead the motley crew. This is where God is taking us. Survival of the fittest is not the innovation or intention of God. And Jesus has shown us that not even death will stop God from bringing to fruition what God does intend.

Advent’s heightened emphasis on the expected return of Jesus re-energized this season, and the one that follows, for me as an adult. We are caught up in the adventure of what God is up to in Christ as we await his assured return in glory. How exciting!

 

Estimating the Cost

Thirteenth Sunday After Pentecost
Luke 14:25-33

This text begins with the statement that large crowds were traveling with Jesus. We know that will change. By the time of his crucifixion, even the twelve will have abandoned him to his death. Read more

Amazed

Pentecost
Acts 2: 1-21

I am a sucker for wonder. I love to see a waxing or waning moon at twilight, when you can just make out its three-dimensionality. I jump at the chance to look through a telescope at Saturn, and admit to the occasional, brief squint at the sun—that massive ball that is, for us, a constant, consistent, continuous explosion of the nuclear fusion of hydrogen into helium. Recently, I experienced a glimpse of the sacred, for me a holy moment, while watching a CGI animation of the Earth’s magnetic field dispersing the lethal solar wind that would otherwise strip off our protective ozone layer. A giant shield surrounding the planet, our magnetic field means we can bike to the bakery for bread, through a gentle breeze, without fear of burning to a crisp; it means that you and I can exist. Read more

Led by the Spirit

First Sunday of Lent
Luke 4:1-13
The dictionary defines marvel (as a person) as one who is wondrously astonishing. With apologies to Captain Marvel, this week’s gospel text reveals one at whom we should truly marvel, and beyond that, one we should follow.

We receive Luke’s version of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness filtered through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. And it’s glorious. Read more

Seeking God

On a walk along the sea shore not long after Christmas Day a number of years ago, I spied a Christmas tree being washed up by the waves, its tinsel trailing like seaweed in the water. It was a woe-begotten site.

A couple of years ago, I overheard the manger of a local pharmacy briefly and wearily express his dislike of Christmas to an employee who was stocking shelves.

As Christians, we understand how these ways of marking Christmas fail—fail the Earth, fail our souls, fail Christ. And so, how do we Christians mark Christmas in ways that nurture Creation and our souls, and that honour Christ? Happily, the texts for this Sunday in Christmas are full of ideas! Read more