December 9, 2022 (The sixth day of the second week of Advent 2022)
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE REFERENCE:
“A voice of one calling out ‘You, in the wilderness, prepare the way for the Lord and make straight a highway for our God. Let every valley be lifted up and every hill and mountain be made low. Let the rough ground be made smooth and level and every rugged place a vast plain. The glory of the Lord will be revealed and all people will see it together as the Lord Himself has said it.’” (Isaiah 40.3-5)
The God who dwells within us makes us His people!
The God who dwells within us reveals Himself in Word and Action!
What is so powerful about prophecy is the essential truth of which it speaks. Prophecy, like a parable, may be read in many ways but only in one way at a time. They were never meant to be all things to all people. They were intended to be specific in their purpose and in their accomplishment. They were not meant to have meaning read into them but to have the truth planted into the reader, the listener, the one who seeks with integrity the Word of the Lord. In this year’s season of Advent, I am drawn to the declaration of Immanuel: the God with us and within us. The very truth of the matter of this season is the call to return to God- His ways, His purposes and His promises. When John the Baptizer, Jesus’ cousin born of Elizabeth the wife of Zechariah who was the aunt of Mary who was betrothed to Joseph of Nazareth, turned 30 years of age it was the job of spiritual construction crew leader that he took on as his vocation. His first contracted job was to prepare for the road called “The Way of the Lord.” Mind you, it was not a wide road like the superhighways built today to accommodate every vehicle possible that can be tolerated. It was a narrow road that cut straight to the heart of the matter. There were no scenic outlooks. There were no roadside rest stops. There were no motels, fast food restaurants or theme parks along “The Way.” This road had one purpose and one purpose only: it hearkened to the days of old and the days to come. It was a “bridge” to span the gulf which existed between humanity and God. It was not a bridge to personal aspirations, vacation timeshares or anywhere to “just get away from it all.” In truth, there was no “getting away from anything or with anything” on The Way of the Lord. And I want to be clear on this, because I sometimes get the feeling that “we” sometimes miss the real point of our Christian worship as in the season of Christmas. The true family connection between Jesus of Nazareth and John the Baptizer was not about flesh and blood but spirit and truth. The focus of both was to draw the people of God back to Yahweh Elohim or, in the words of Jesus, Abba Father. In the end it was always about God in His fullest expression. And God’s fullest expression has always and will always include His people on earth as it is with His people in Heaven.
The call of John and Jesus is to embrace the prophetic oneness which the Word of God declares is the ultimate truth for all of life. The question was and continues to be “Can we handle the truth?” When John spoke the truth from the wilderness, let’s call it The Wilderness of Sin, the world wanted it but was so unsure about accepting all that came with it. It was a truth whose benefits were desirable but whose processes were more challenging than anticipated. If the saying “Have your cake and eat it, too” was popularized in that day as we have learned it in our own, then we might have seen it in scripture. Oh, wait, the saying declares “You can’t have your cake and eat it, too.” With the cake comes responsibility. And the “Christmas Story” requires responsibility. There is work to be done in preparing for the “way of the Lord.” As we read above the prophetic utterance of God through His prophet Isaiah (pronounced E-tzi-ah) look at what happens in response to “the Way of the Lord.” In actuality, the term “way” is far less a descriptor of a road or even a path as it is a means and mode of character and intent.
- Valleys are lifted up to level ground.
- Hills and mountains are lowered down to level ground.
- Rough ground is smoothed even and made level ground.
- Rugged places are made into a vast plain as a vast level ground.
- As far as the eyes can see that which is “high and lifted up” will be visible and none of that will be made by human hand.
And be aware, mighty ones of God, that such geographic references are actually allegorical designations to those who are and can be “the people of God.” Gleaning from the prophecies in Isaiah we are lead to hold fast to that truth which says “the people who lived in darkness have seen a great light.” It is the light of truth about the right relationship between humanity and God. It is about getting this right relationship right from our side as human beings in order to meet the right side of the right relationship from God’s side. The problem is that we cannot do it by our own efforts, abilities and resources. All that is needed, God has provided. In fact, it is Immanuel that becomes our greatest effort to accomplish this righting of our relationship with ourselves, one another and with God. We can say “from dust we came and to dust we return.” That might be suitable for those who dare not believe that there is but One True God but it can never be suitable for those who are the people of God. We must say “from God we came and to God we shall return.” To be in any other place than where the presence of God is fully at work and fully existing is to be somewhere that even dust cannot compare. It will be a wilderness of sin where the valleys of the shadow of death are cut deep into the mountains of hypocrisy and despair. The yearning for level ground in that place will eventually be lost amid the cacophony of mournful cries and sorrowful realizations of a hopelessness that is endless and boundless. But, those who find themselves in the construction crew of spirit and truth who are called by the purposes of God and call upon the name of God rejoice in the level ground of peace, joy, harmony and abundant love. What is it that Immanuel does but capture the vision of the Master’s Plan and bring it to life in word and in actions? There is nothing else. So why are we trying to make so much more of this season of preparation for the work that is ahead? Why are we allowing the distractions of the world interfere with the ground leveling preparation for “The Way of the Lord”? The prophets warned of such distractions. Even Jesus declared in His own ministry “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and you will find that all that is needed to accomplish the task of authentic living will be provided.” It is His way of saying “nothing else will do.” Let this Christmas season be what it is intended to be: a level playing ground for all of God’s people that they might see more by faith than what their eyes are seeing as the works of the world.
Father, You have shown us the way, the truth and the life through Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ of God and Savior of the world. Thank you. Now by the investment in us of Your Holy Spirit bless the work we will now do in preparing “The Way of the Lord” in spirit and in truth. AMEN.