Prepare the way! - Reflections 12-13-18

Sunday, December 16

 Third Sunday of Advent

Malachi 3:1-4
Luke 1:68-79
Philippians 1:3-11
Luke 3:1-6

Lessons from 2nd Sunday in Advent

The scriptures we are using this week at Gloria Dei get to the heart of Advent: Prepare the way of the Lord.  One of our worship planning resources suggests for these texts that we should put all sorts of stuff – boxes, blankets, buckets and other items - in the aisle of the church then ask children to help clear a way through. 
Get it? Their task would be “to prepare the way”. 

I do think these four texts offer some good images to ponder what it means to prepare the way during this season before Christmas.

In our first text, Malachi tells us that God’s messenger will come to prepare the way. He is speaking to those who are rebuilding their lives after having returned from the Babylonian exile.  A new temple has been built and religious practices are being established once again. But, according to God through Malachi, improper sacrifices by the priests have already desecrated this temple. The people have taken up the worship of foreign gods. What stands in the way of the Lord? Infidelity, privilege, insincerity, and self-interest keep the people from effecting justice and caring for those who have less. Hmmm. Sound familiar?

How will this messenger prepare a way? Malachi says that the messenger will act as a refiner of metals, heating and melting the hearts of the people, discarding contaminants and clearing out “junk” to bring out the “pure” attributes of the people God. Then they can bring offerings and sacrifices in righteousness. The pre-exile prophet Micah has described the “sacrifices” that God desires: Do justice. Love kindness. Walk humbly with God.

The “psalm” is actually a canticle from the book of Luke which is attributed to John the Baptist’s father at John’s birth. Zechariah knows that his child will grow up to prepare the way. How will he prepare the way? He will..give God’s people the knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins.

The Philippians text, which isn’t even necessarily meant to complement the day’s theme, still offers a glimpse of how the imprisoned Paul prays that the church will prepare the way: that your love may overflow with knowledge & insight before the coming of Christ. Paul likens that growth of love as a purifying experience in preparation of way.

The Gospel text tells of the beginning of the ministry of John the Baptist which his father described earlier.  It’s first verse lays out the political and religious authorities who will, in fact, stand in the way of Lord. John’s call to repentance - to prepare the way - includes a challenge to turn one’s allegiance away from these authorities and turn back to God. Hmmm. Sound familiar?

So, how does John prepare the way? The prophet Isaiah is quoted in highway construction terms to illustrate how restoration will take some heavy earth moving in our lives – personal and corporate - by filling potholes, leveling high points, and straightening the crooked parts. The word John chooses to describe all this is “repent” which means to make a radical turn, a 180° direction change.

There. That is plenty to ponder. We are more than half way through Advent. Prepared?

What gets in God’s way? How do we as the people of God prepare the way of the Lord in this time and place?

Refining fire, growing in the knowledge of forgiveness, repenting, filling potholes… 

How is God working in you this Advent? How are you preparing for the coming of Christ? 

How to Find Us

Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Iowa City

Gathered by grace. Scattered for service.

123 E Market Street
Iowa City, IA 52245