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Preparing the Way of the Lord

December 9, 2017

The Gospel reading and the reading from Isaiah for the Second Sunday in Lent have the call to Prepare the Way of the Lord in common. To be honest, the last thing that I feel is prepared. Yet by the grace of God and with the work of so many in our church family, we are preparing the way for the Lord this Advent season. Even though the pathways are rarely straight, when we hike in Rocky, there is awe and wonder around every corner it seems, just like this bend in the road in the Wild Basin area.

This has been a season so far of challenges to say the least. A friend and fellow High School Classmate of mine had to tell her kids that their grandmother (her mother) died today. My first day back at work on Monday, a very dear friend and parishioner called me to her Dad’s bedside where eventually on Tuesday we said good-bye as he peacefully left this world surrounded by his wife and children. So many have been walking through the Valley of the Shadows this year. So many people whom Denise and I have the honor of serving here in our Mountain Home have made this journey.

This year, on December 21st, we will observe our Second Annual Blue Christmas Service at Presbyterian Community Church of the Rockies. It will be poignant for so many in our community this year. It will be poignant for those whom I hold close in my own heart who have suffered loss this year. It will be poignant for me not only as a pastor, but also as one who is mourning the loss of his mother. It will be poignant for Denise who walked the last month of Mom’s journey with her as a constant companion and caregiver and for my Dad who said a tearful farewell to his partner of 65 years.

I find it comforting that the opening verse of Isaiah 40 is this: “Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God.” Comfort us, Lord, as we mourn. Comfort us, Lord, as we walk through the Valley of the Shadows. Let your light shine upon us and transform us, Lord. The nature of Advent is often shrouded in Apocalyptic nuances. Sadly, many who call themselves christians (lower case is intentional) are so focused on the Apocalyptic writings of Advent and Scripture that they miss the true meaning of this season of preparation.

Yes, John the Baptist came to prepare the way for his cousin… Yeshua… Jesus… the Messiah…. Yes, John said that he came with a Baptism of Water for repentance for the forgiveness of sins… that Jesus would come to baptize with the Holy Spirit. Yet even as John the Baptist came to make straight in the desert a highway for God, he also came with the promise of comfort for a people who had suffered for so long under the yoke of the oppressor.

Going back to the Isaiah passage, we hear a lot about the grass withering and the flowers fading. Isaiah was speaking to a people in exile who felt abandoned by God. To be honest, God had not abandoned them… they had abandoned God! Yet despite this abandonment, the promise of God through the voice of Isaiah was true! “He will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep.” (Isaiah 40:11)

This Advent season, in the midst of so much hatred, animosity, and greed; we need to do something different if we say that we follow Christ. While the politicians in Washington, D.C. and in state capitols around this nation play games with the very lives of the people they were elected to represent; someone needs to stand in the gap for those whom Jesus ministered to. A friend of mine posted this evening that a homeless man had died in the Florida panhandle due to the extreme cold conditions. Sprite Mike was the name he went by. You may not have noticed him on the streets… so many pass by men and women like him without blinking an eye. Yet programs which are supposed to help the “least of these” to use Jesus’ own words, are being cut in favor of deals for the rich and for corporations.

I keep coming back to the words of Isaiah… the shepherd who will gather the lambs in his arms and carry them in his bosom. Do you think, dear reader, perhaps John the Baptist was calling us to follow the example of the good shepherd and carry the least of these  in our arms and in our hearts? How do we prepare the way of the Lord in this day and age? I have a strong suspicion that it isn’t by beating people over the heads with clobber verses or large bibles… I believe that we are called to prepare the way of the Lord by sharing the light, love, grace, peace, mercy, and hope found in Christ with others.

May God help us to be an example that is counter to much of the church today… May God help us to love God, love Neighbor, and to truly live like Jesus!

  1. Amen, dear friend! Bless you for this inspiring word, Michael. 💜

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