In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah,
‘The voice of one crying out 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.” ’
Traditionally, the second Sunday in Advent is when we light the candle for "peace." I've always found it strangely ironic that the Sunday that we focus on peace is the Sunday that the Revised Common Lectionary has us listening to a voice of one crying out in the wilderness. This doesn't sound very peace to me!
Peace is something that I truly believe most of us want. We want peace in our lives. We want peace in the Middle East. We want peace in our marriages, in our families, in our communities. The Church is called to be a peaceful voice in the midst of a world infected with violence.
Sometimes, to get to peace, we have to listen to voices that are difficult to hear. John is one of those voices. Born by the Holy Spirit by his father Zechariah and his mother Elizabeth, John knew that the world needed to prepare for Jesus' arrival. So too do we need to prepare ourselves for the peace to which Jesus calls us. To prepare ourselves for peace, we must first repent of our sins and, in doing so, understand our deep need for it.
John the Baptist echoes the words of the prophet Isaiah when he says that "every valley shall be filled and every mountain made low." The people who often seek violence to get what they want tend to be the people "on the mountains," the people with the most power to lose by sharing it with others. Do we who are on mountains have what it takes to be made low? That is a question that those of us in power need to ask of ourselves. Churches, although we might like to think otherwise, are in positions of power and we must ask ourselves this question before we ask it of anyone else.
Speaking up like John the Baptist takes courage and wisdom. I would hope that our congregations are also institutions of courage and wisdom that can help prepare the way of the Lord. What are our congregations doing so that the work of the Lord might thrive? What are the institutions in the community in which you live doing so that those "in the valleys" might live with the same quality of life as "those on the mountains."
What is this voice crying out in the wilderness saying to you as we continue this Advent journey? Food for thought as we begin the second week of preparing for the coming of the Christ-child.
Prayer for the Day:
God of Every Mountain and Every Valley,
help me this day to prepare the way for your coming.
Make the rough ways in my life smooth
as I seek to be your disciple in a world that needs your work so desperately.
Forgive me of my sins that I might, with your help, overcome them
and do the work that you are calling me to do. Amen