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!

 

Receiving the Gift of Christ

Third Sunday of Advent
Zephaniah 3:14-20
Philippians 4:4-7
Luke 3:7-18

Advent is a time of watchful waiting, of preparing ourselves for the Lord’s arrival. The message of John the Baptist is designed to enable our focused preparation. In Luke’s account we read that John clearly states that he is not the coming Messiah. Instead, John’s attention rests solely on the one who is coming after him, waiting, watching, hoping. Read more

Watching and Waiting for Peace

In our household, our children participate in the rhythms of the liturgical calendar. To help them learn about Advent, we use a simple song (to the tune of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”) in our weekly litanies. It begins: “Advent is a time to wait….” My three-year-old daughter, whenever we bring up this theme, has developed the habit of responding, “But I don’t like to wait.” She is right (about herself and all of us). Waiting is hard, which is why our journey through Advent is so important. Read more

Learning to Forage

First Sunday After Epiphany
Acts 19:1-7
Mark 4:1-11
The trail descends from the pavement above, concrete giving way to packed mud, quartz, and shale, roots running here and there across the path. Below the trail, the ground slopes, settling into a creek that eventually flows to the Arkansas river. Throughout the late summer, and well into the fall, this slope would be pocked by the orange trumpets of chanterell mushrooms, fruiting from the unseen mycelium below the surface of the soil. On our weekly walks in the woods, my daughters would compete for the privlege of cutting them from their stems, collecting them in the cloth bags we’d brought for the purpose.

This was one of my family’s first attempts at foraging, going for the ready pickings of easily identified mushrooms that no one else seemed to be harvesting in our local urban woodland. There was something delightful about gathering food each week from the forrest floor, food that we’d done nothing to earn other than noticing its ripeness for the taking. My small exercise in gathering was a reminder both of the abundance of the world and of the reality that the best things available are not what we can buy, but what we can accept as gifts. Read more

Bearers of Good News

Third Sunday of Advent
Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11
Psalm 126
John 1:6-8, 19-28

It’s an apology we’ve heard (and possibly uttered) so many times that it has become cliché: “I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but….” Yet, while many hackneyed old chestnuts have at their heart some measure of truth, I think that this one, at least in the world where we currently live, rings false, insofar as it stands in stark contrast to the spirit of our time. The fact is, many people take a certain delight in being the bearers of bad news. We occupy a cultural and political climate that is positively rife with bad news, of innumerable varieties. From salacious narratives of men behaving badly to the often extravagant failures of individuals and institutions in power to a constant catalog of taboos and norms that those in power are stomping on with every passing day, there is no shortage of bad news to report. Read more