Advent encore…

Clearing the way – making paths straight –
these are the words of the Lord’s prophet John.
The one dares use the words of Isaiah –
John, who comes out of the desert
with a word from the Lord.

When it comes to pronouncements,
John’s are the real deal.
He believed himself called – Sent to do a job;
to carry God’s message
to a stubborn and wayward people;
to call attention to human sin
and the divine solution.

What sort of reception did he get?
Well, pretty good to begin with:
And people from the whole Judean countryside

and all the people of Jerusalem were gong out
to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins,
People  restless with anticipation – weighed down with waiting on the promises of God,
Thinking they are hearing the one!
This guy sounds (and looks)
like the sort of message God would send.
He is saying all the right things – doing the right things.
Calling for repentance – declaring God’s coming kingdom –
that is something they understood;
a very prophetic thing to do.

And what John was doing was calling people to account;
reminding them of God’s claim on them – calling them to God’s standard.
No soft-sell, no spin –
John is all about delivering the truth.
Something big is coming – someone mighty,
who will make what he is doing seem tame.
If you think I’m worth listening to, John says –
just wait until you see what comes after…

Advent finds us stiff waiting.
Waiting to see the glory of God revealed – waiting for the return of Christ. Waiting for the kingdom, the power and the glory of God,
to be revealed in this crazy, mixed-up world we call home –
and John’s voice haunts us as we wait.
Demanding we dear the way for Christ;
insisting we make the paths straight, smooth the rough places.

Why is that our job, we want to know? We cant fix what we didn’t break, can we?
What can we do to pave the way for Christ??? –
that is for prophets and holy folk,
our job is to wait while the mess gets sorted out.

High profile Christians – the towering saints of the faith – they do all the real work.
They are cleaning up the world’s mess – they are fit for it; called to it. We can admire them – support them – sing their praises –
but that is not our thing, we’re too humble; too ordinary –
not fit to share the stage with them…
…notice that John says much the same thing about himself?
Not in the same league as Messiah,
and yet John had a role to play
Not fit to tie the sandals of the one who is to come, he says.
His humility was such that he would later say of Jesus – He must increase and I must decrease* (John3:30) – and still John brought scores of people to a better understanding of God’s purpose
he brought them closer to the Kingdom of God – he cleared the way that they might see Jesus more clearly.

Why is he still shouting from the pages of Scripture this morning?
What is John asking of us?
We have heard the Good News –
we are waiting for the promise to be fulfilled,
Let it happen God – but surely there is nothing we can do…
Unless, with John’s help, we begin to see things that are in the way –
blocking our view of God.

We know what those obstacles are – money, power – work, pleasure –
We know them well because we put them there.
And John insists that we get them cleared away –
pull them down so that we can see the great thing that God will do.
Strange that as we wait through Advent for Christmas
we encounter the largest obstacles –
want overcomes need –  pleasure and profit prevail,
Until the manger is lost to our sight

John knows what to do – John the ordinary, John the humble; John the bold…
Look past the facade – past the things that the world piles in front of us, he cries  – pull them down if you dare –
and see what waits behind them.
Earth shaking stuff wafts for us.
Soul shaking stuff.
Life altering, life-giving grace waits for us

With all our obstacles removed –
with the way made straight and the road well cleared,
what waits for us  is a king, long promised
– a king of peace – our God made flesh –
Christ himself is waiting.

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