Prepare the Way
by Julie Butcher
December 6, 2015
Are you prepared for Christmas? There’s the hustle and bustle of lugging the boxes of decorations out of the attic, putting up the tree, hanging the garland, the lights, the wreaths, the Elf on the shelf, the shopping – what to get for everyone on your list. It’s exhausting, isn’t it? “Mom, Dad, when is Santa coming, is it almost time? I’ve been good – I hope Santa brings me everything I asked for!” No pressure there!
Are you prepared for Christmas? – For the birth of the Son of God, our Savior, Jesus Christ? In Luke’s Gospel, the Word of God comes to John in the wilderness and without hesitation, John “went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the words of the prophet Isaiah, ‘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 be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’” (Luke: 3: 3-6)
John, the son of Zechariah and Mary’s Cousin, Elizabeth; John, who leapt in Elizabeth’s womb when Mary, pregnant with Jesus, came to visit, now, a grown man, was hanging out in the wilderness (I’m not sure what that wilderness was, maybe the desert?). He wore clothes made of Camel’s hair (itchy) and a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts (yum) and wild honey (sounds a bit like a wild man). And, the Word of God came to John – Luke doesn’t tell us what the word of God was. But, John went right into “all the region of Jordan” crying, “Prepare the way! The Lord is coming! Get ready!”
In the next couple of verses, the people ask John, “What do we do? How do we get ready for the coming of the Lord?” And John says, “The one with two shirts must share with one who has none, and anyone who has food must do the same (3:10-12). And, the tax collectors asked, “What are we to do?” And, he tells them, “Exact no more than the assessment” – take no more than is owed. The soldiers asked, “What about us, what should we do?” And he said, “No bullying; don’t blackmail; be satisfied with your pay!” (Luke 3: 10-14)
Are you prepared for Christmas? For the coming of the Son of God, our Savior, Jesus Christ? When the people asked John what they should do to prepare, he speaks of justice: if you have two shirts, share one; if you have food, do likewise; take no more than what is owed; don’t bully, don’t blackmail; be happy with what you have.
Last Sunday, Father John spoke a message of personal justice. He told us that in the midst of whatever difficulty we are dealing with, Jesus said to “Look up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Lk 21:28). “Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life.” Don’t worry be happy!, as our Presiding Bishop would say.
This week, St. John proclaims a message of social justice. Justice – there is so much injustice in the world. Refugees are fleeing their homes by the millions to escape being tortured and slaughtered, people are hungry, homeless, and addicted to drugs and alcohol. We live in a world wracked by religious intolerance, discrimination, and the slow destruction of our planet. In October, there was the shooting in Roseburg, Oregon that left 10 people dead and seven wounded. Last week, 3 people were killed and 9 others wounded, 5 of which were police officers, in Colorado Springs. This week, in San Bernardino 14 people were killed and more than a dozen were wounded by a husband and wife team of home-grown, radicalized terrorists. A few weeks ago, in Paris, terrorists killed 130 people and wounded 368. And this is only the tip of the iceberg of what is happening in the Middle East and Africa, and around the world.
It’s overwhelming. How do we heed John’s proclamation to prepare the way, to make our hearts and minds ready for the coming of Christ? Jesus said, “Look up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near!” In today’s reading from Baruch, we are told to let go of our “sorrow and distress – to put on the beauty and glory from God.” How is that possible? What do we do?
Pray. Take time to pray. Pray alone in your room, pray together with someone else or in a group, take time for personal reflection – of what do you need to repent, what needs to change in your life? Use a daily meditation, like Forward Day by Day or the Advent meditation booklets that are at the back of the church. Coming from a place of prayer and reflection, we can discern what injustice troubles us the most and choose one. Because if you try to do more than that, you can become paralyzed with sadness and an inability to do anything. From a place of prayer and centeredness, you can tell others what you believe about whatever injustice it is that weighs heavy on your heart. It may be that your words, spoken from the heart, will touch another person’s heart, and they will be inspired to join with you in prayer and action.
In an article “5 Ways to Fight Injustice,” Jen Avellaneda (Aveshaneda) lists 5 reasons why speaking out against injustice is Biblical missional living:
- Jesus came to proclaim liberty to the captives, recovering sight to the blind and giving liberty to those oppressed. (Luke 4:18-19)
- Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. (Psalm 83:20)
- Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause. (Isaiah 1:17)
- Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. (Jer 22:3)
- We are called in love to…Open our mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open our mouth, judge righteously; defend the rights of the poor and needy. (Prov 31:8-9)
Then she lists 5 ways to use your voice to advocate for others:
- Take the time to vote. We are blessed with the right to have a say in our community on political, legal, and social issues.
- Be a volunteer Guardian Ad Litem, advocating in the court for foster children, the abused, or the oppressed.
- Write letters to congressmen and women and/or senators helping them be aware of injustices taking place.
- Go to city council or neighborhood meetings; offering support, advocacy, and encouragement to officials and community leaders.
- Start a prayer group, petitioning the God of justice for healing in homes, hearts, and communities.
After all, if we were imprisoned for our faith, suffering abuse, bound by the oppression of a dictating government, [or fleeing for our lives]….wouldn’t we want someone to do something?
Are you prepared for Christmas? – For the birth of the Son of God, our Savior, Jesus Christ? For John “went into all the region around the Jordan proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the words of the prophet Isaiah, ‘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 be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’” (Luke: 3: 3-6)
The Lord is coming! Get ready! Straighten up! Prepare the way! We will see the salvation God!
In the name of God, Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer.
Peace and Blessings,