?December 6, 2009
Second Sunday of Advent
When I served as a pastor in Columbia, S.C., in the 1990s, Interstate 77 was being completed. It would form a beltway around the city as it crossed I-20 at one point and joined I-26. Our family lived about a mile from the roadway under construction. My young sons and I spent many summer evenings exploring the partially built roads and bridges after the workers went home for the night. We would stand in the still roadway and imagine the buzz of traffic that would soon be whizzing along. We would
examine the joints in the bridge and try to figure out how it all connected to make a safe passage for huge trucks and countless cars.
I have a friend in the church who spent his career working for the highway department. He was a road builder, and his crew was in charge of the some of the bridges being constructed along the interstate. Raymond fit the image in my mind of someone working in highway construction-big, strong, tough and burly. I used to love to hear him talk about whatever current road project he was involved in. I marveled at the technical knowledge that went into highway construction. I was fascinated to see pictures of an area before and after a bridge was built.
We meet another impressive road builder in our text for today. His name is John the Baptist. He called people to prepare the way for the Lord by repenting of their sins and then being baptized as a public demonstration of a life made ready to host the living Lord.
First of all, notice that the voice came from the wilderness. That’s where John went to be alone and away from the distractions of life’s pressing urgencies. The wilderness is quiet, and he knew that’s where he could get such an important message straight before announcing it to a world desperate for good news.
When he did proclaim what God had spoken, it was filled with power and even now makes an impact deep in the hearts of those who listen.
Then notice the roadway to be built is in the desert, too. That refers to how barren our hearts are to begin with, as we realize our need for the Lord. There’s nothing in the wilderness to build on. It is a desolate place. The work of God in the hearts of people has to start from scratch. We don’t have anything to offer Him except our heartfelt repentance, but that’s all He needs and wants. He does the rest.
Also notice the words of verses 4-6 are in quotations and indented. This is a way of referring not only to a quotation from a person, but a quote from the Old Testament. Isaiah (40:3-5) had originally prophesied what John would proclaim. Luke is confirming that John was now doing just that. He’s a road builder preparing the way for the Lord.
This is the purpose of Advent-to prepare for the coming of the Lord. Look at Advent as a challenge and an opportunity to build roads that open the way for Jesus to come into our lives. Like building roads for cars and trucks, preparing a straight way for Jesus to enter our hearts can be tough work that requires great effort. Consider the way John puts it.
I. Build up the valleys of discouragement and faithlessness.
We all know what it’s like to lose heart in the face of difficulty, wrestle with the temptation to give up and stop believing God can do anything. Jesus can lift us out of the lowest point of discouragement and build up our faith when it falters.
II. Level out the mountains and hills of pride and self-centeredness.
Mountains in our lives are the big things that no one can miss, and everyone sees them. Hills are the smaller things that we may overlook or discount, but they can block our progress toward godliness just as much as tall mountains. If we get puffed
up with pride, God can bring us down a notch or two in a humbling way we never anticipated. And then we find ourselves grateful that God taught us a valuable lesson, even if it was painful to our ego.
III. Straighten out the crooked places of sin and deceit.
Sin gets our lives out of balance at the core so that everything is skewed. Like David, when we sin, our natural tendency is to hide it as if it never happened or disguise it as not so bad. But unattended, it will leave the pathway into our hearts crooked and in need of being straightened out to make way for the Lord.
IV. Smooth the rough places of bad attitudes and lack of love.
Sometimes we are slow to realize that a bad attitude or an unloving action has infiltrated our lives. Occasionally, this is where we may need to be confronted by a close friend or trusted family member. Again, this is painful, but profitable in the end.
All of these things hinder and hide the glory of God in our lives, but when we take on the job of road building-as Isaiah and John had in mind-we can make a straight way for the Lord that will enable all eyes to see His glorious grace in our midst.