Here are my thoughts for the Second Sunday in Advent
Laurie Beth Jones starts off her book, Jesus in Blue Jeans, by describing how she came to know Christ.
Many years ago I dreamed that I was standing in a meadow. Suddenly I saw a man approaching me. As he got nearer I gasped to realize that it was Jesus in Blue Jeans. When he saw the expression on my face he said, “Why are you surprised? I came to them wearing robes because they wore robes. I come to you in blue jeans because you wear blue jeans. (Jesus in Blue Jeans (prologue), Laurie Beth Jones)
At this time of year it is important that we understand how we see Christ. On the one hand we see Christ as a newborn child, young, innocent and unprotected. It makes Advent and Christmas so much easier when we celebrate the birth of a child; it makes it so much easier if we do not have to think of John the Baptist coming to us, calling out for us to repent and prepare the way for the coming of the Lord. A newborn infant is so much easier to deal with.
But we also see and we are reminded by the Scripture readings for today that Jesus is a young man coming into our world with the express purpose of offering us the greatest gift of all, salvation. The Scriptures today also tell us that we should prepare for this coming of Christ.
But we have to be careful when we read these passages because He is not coming to save us unless we first take some steps of our own. In the Psalter reading for today, we read that God “will speak peace to his people” (Psalm 85: 8) if they turn to him. There are things that we must do in order for Christ to appear before us.
The prophet Isaiah tells us to prepare a way for the Lord. We must build that straight highway; we must fill the valleys and lay low the mountains and hilltops. These are not easy things to do. Having lived in southeast Kentucky, I was privy to one of the greatest land removal schemes ever concocted.
Running along the Kentucky – Virginia state line is Pine Mountain. Back around 1988, Highway 19 ran south from Ohio and West Virginia through Kentucky and into Virginia. When the highway got to Pine Mountain, the builders put in a series of switch-backs to get up the mountain and through Pound Gap into Virginia. During the late 1990’s, these switch-backs were removed and the highway was made straight. Literally speaking the valleys were filled and the mountain tops laid low. It was one of the greatest earth removal plans ever devised. When I moved to that area in 1998, I had a sense that I had been there before because of a trip I had made from Ohio to Florida. But I could not figure out where I had been. Then I realized that the roads that I had traveled had been replaced by the new highway, a highway without the typical switch-backs of mountain highways.
So too is the road that we must build so that Christ can come to us. We must fill in the gaps in our lives and remove the barriers that we put up that keep Christ and people from reaching us. It is not an easy task. It is a task that we often do not even want to begin.
It is so easy to build mountains and dig valleys around us. It makes it easier for us to avoid dealing with people. It makes it easier for us to ignore the problems of the world. But when we do that we also cut ourselves off from the world. Cut off from the world, we cry out in pain. But there is no one to hear our cries because we have cut ourselves off so that we would not hear others crying out in pain.
And the prophet tells us that we are like the grass of a field that will wither in time. The prophet tells us that we are like the flowers of the field whose colors will fade over time. The prophet tells us that grass and flowers are only temporary things in God’s world but God’s word lasts forever. So we are to prepare a way for the Lord, we are to go to the highest mountaintop and not cry out in pain but rather in joy, And then our God will come in all His glory.
Even today we hear the voice of John the Baptist crying out in the wilderness. Perhaps it is the voice of the homeless, perhaps it is the voice of the sick and needy, perhaps it is the voice of the oppressed and the forgotten, but we hear their voices. We would much rather hear the cry of a newborn infant.
We know that a newborn child will grow, especially that little child in the manger. We can wait for that child to grow up. But the voice of one in the wilderness tells us we cannot wait, for the grown-up Lord will be here any minute.
The coming of the Lord is discussed only in theological terms or as speculation at best. But Peter tells us that it is a moment in time that will catch us aware, as a thief in the night comes. And when He comes, we must be ready; when He comes, we must be aware. That is why Peter encourages us to be at peace, not just with God but with all.
We hear the voice of John the Baptist telling us to prepare; we hear the voice of Isaiah telling us to make the preparations necessary for the coming of the Lord. We hear Peter telling us that the Lord’s coming is any time. But we look for mountains to protect us; we make valleys around our lives so that no one can get to us.
We are afraid to do that which will prepare us. We don’t mind celebrating the birth of a child, for a newborn infant cannot affect our lives. But an adult, especially one who, as Peter describes, can make the heavens pass away with a loud noise and dissolve the elements in fire makes us scared.
But the prophet Isaiah also tells us that though the Lord God comes in might He will feed us as a shepherd feeds his flock; He will carry us in His bosom as a shepherd carries a lamb and He will bring us home.
So, let us prepare the way. Let us look to the coming of Christ, born a child but still a King. Let us open our hearts, fill in the valleys and tear down the mountains that keep Christ away. Then it will be our voices crying out, as prophets do, celebrating the birth of Christ.