Prepare the Way - Reflections 12-1-2021

Texts for Sunday December 5, 2021 
Second Sunday of Advent

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

The US infrastructure bill finally slogged its way through the House and Senate and onto the president’s desk a couple of weeks ago. As something most people supported, it certainly took a long time to through the process. Which really isn't a surprise. I remember back in 1975, School House Rock Season 3 Episode 1 warned us that it takes a long time until the president signs a bill.

The second Sunday of Advent announces and admonishes us to prepare the way. And, like a legislative bill, it will take some time. But it has at begun.

In the Luke text, read verses 4 through 6. Have you ever watched the creation or repair of a major highway? These verses in Luke, who got them from Isaiah, sound like a modern road construction plan. If you’ve ever watched road building, you can watch the raising of valleys and lowering of hills and the straightening and smoothing as one prepares the final roadway.

The four texts we are using this week provide some good thoughts what it means to “Prepare the way of the Lord” as we prepare for... well, the Lord.

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 creating justice and caring for those who have less.

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 the “junk” to bring out the “pure” attributes (let’s call them life-giving attributes) of God’s people so that they can bring the offerings and sacrifices that God desires. In the next verse right after our reading, Malachi lists the things that do not give life: oppressing hired workers, the widow and the orphan, thrusting aside the alien. The pre-exile prophet Micah described positive actions that prepare the way for life: Do justice. Love kindness. Walk humbly with God.

The “psalm” this week 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 does Zechariah describe John’ mission of preparation? To bring understanding of the release and deliverance for God’s people through the forgiveness of their sins.

The Philippians text offers a glimpse of how the imprisoned Paul prays that the church at Philippi will prepare the way through love that overflows with knowledge and insight. Paul also likens that growth of love as a purifying, life-giving experience in preparation of the way.

The Gospel text reports the beginning of the ministry of John the Baptist which his father above. In the first two verses of Sunday’s text, Luke lays out the political and religious authorities who will, in fact, be roadblocks in the way for both John and Jesus. John and Jesus challenge and confront the temporal power that is being used so cruelly against the poor ones. Back to infidelity, privilege, insincerity, and self-interest, throwing in greed, apathy, and cruelty, which keep people from creating justice and caring for those who have less.

John has already begun this building project. The “bricks and mortar” of this wilderness highway are the baptism of repentance and forgiveness of sin. John’s challenges the people to turn their allegiance away from these authorities and turn back to God. John uses Isaiah’s highway construction images to describe how restoration will take some heavy earthmoving 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 that we make a radical turnaround or reorientation of life.

We are moving quickly through Advent. …Refining fire, growing in the knowledge of forgiveness, repenting, filling potholes… 
What is being prepared in you? 
What roadblocks are in God’s way? 
How can we as the people of God prepare the way of the Lord during this time of uncertainty and polarization?

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