|Prepare The Way|
Prepare the Way!
This voice cries out and says, “Get that road straight—the glory of the Lord is about to appear!” These words, loosely paraphrased, are from Isaiah 40, that beautiful passage that starts with, “Comfort, O comfort my people.” Several of the movements in Handel’s “Messiah” come from these great Scriptures.
Rough and ready John the Baptist repeats this phrase hundreds of years later just as Jesus is getting ready to step into the public eye of ministry. John tells people to prepare the way by repenting, because the kingdom of heaven is near.
The kingdom of heaven, the glory of God: two powerful concepts with words that have meaning difficult to access today.
We don’t live in kingdoms for the most part, unless we’re in Saudi Arabia, still actually ruled by a kingdom. England doesn’t count. We don’t know what it means to live in a world permeated by the will of the king, in this case by the holiness of God, by that marriage of justice and mercy, held in redeeming grace.
As for the glory of God . . . I find myself at a loss when writing of what it means to be in the open, unprotected and unsheltered presence of God. Perhaps Steve Jobs gave us a glimpse with his final utterances just before physical death: “Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow.”
Then we have the problem of repenting—who wants to do that? Who wants to do the hard, hard work of profound internal and external change in order to get aligned with God? Not many, for sure.
There is one more big, important thing: It would seem that unless we humans, as small as we are, take action, we’ll actually hinder the glory of God from making its appearance.
It’s crazy—we are fragile little blades of grass, here today, gone tomorrow. How could we possibly influence this? Surely God can pick a better agent.
Yet, it does seem to be up to us. By every action, every thought, every deed, every intent, we open and smooth that highway for the entrance of glory—or we litter it with impassible boulders and devastating obstacles. The glory of the Lord gets revealed—or stays hidden.
How might we straighten that highway that glory needs to travel, both for ourselves and for those who need us to do the work of preparing the way?
Here are some suggestions:
First, thank God for all the people who made straight the highway of the Lord so that you yourself might see the glory of God. This might include parents, teachers, friends, those unknown to you personally but whose lives so impacted the world that grace was able to enter.
Second, remember the times you yourself made straight the highway of the Lord and made it possible for others to see the glory of God. Think of your own acts of kindness, your personal sacrifices that smoothed the road for someone else, your own unseen and unacknowledged moments of mercy and justice, infused with grace.
Third, offer sorrow and repentance for the times when you placed obstacles on that highway so the entrance of God’s glory was hindered: your hatreds, your hurtful actions, your moments of insisting others be merciful while you yourself were merciless.
Now offer forgiveness to yourself for your actions and to any whose obstacles, actions or attitudes have made it more difficult for you to see the glory of God.
And remember these words:
A voice cries out: "In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken."