Summary: A sermon for the 2nd Sunday of Advent, Series B preached 12/7/2008 at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church, Audubon, Iowa. Based on a sermon outline by Dr. Carl Fickenscher III, Concordia Pulpit Resources, Vol. 16, No.1.
One of the Advent hymns that we will be singing during communion this morning is “Comfort, Comfort Now My People”, it’s hymn #29 in the Lutheran Book of Worship. The first line of the hymn says “Comfort, Comfort, now my people; “Tell of Peace” so says our God. (LBW 29 v.1) I have to admit, I really like this Advent hymn. Some people think it’s a bit slow, but I think the tune perfectly sets a mood of peace, serenity, quietness, which to be perfectly honest, I really need during a busy time of the year. It’s a voice that gently lulls away anxiety: “Comfort, comfort, now my people.” I think this hymn is one of the reasons I really like our Old Testament reading for this morning.
But as much as I love this text, I have to admit, every time I work on this particular text, something blows my mood. It’s like a bullhorn on a job site calling you back from lunch; it’s this voice shouting “Make way, make way! Comin’ through! Come on, move it, move it, move it!” Actually, it’s the voice of John the Baptist, foretold by Isaiah the prophet, telling us to get up and get with it. It’s definitely a mood changer.
The prophet’s voice is supposed to open a new, comforting section of the whole book of Isaiah. The first 39 chapters of Isaiah are primarily speaking of judgment, ending with a prophecy of the Babylonian captivity. Chapters 40-66 then are primarily intended to be a message of comfort. It starts out well enough: Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem” (v.1) But then, the prophet’s voice changes altogether. It leads us to ask a key question: Where’s the Comfort in that voice?”
It’s as if a voice cries out that anything standing in God’s way will be bulldozed. Just listen to that voice crying out in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (v. 3-5)
We start off by hearing the phrase “Every valley and mountain shall be leveled.” That statement brings to my mind pictures of a road construction site, where they are putting in a highway in a place where there hasn’t been one before. “Get that earthmover over here! Get that blasting crew! We need some dynamite here! Hurry up with those ‘dozers!” There’s a lot of hard work to prepare the way for that new highway. Things have to be leveled out before you can begin the work of making the highway. In a spiritual sense, that’s the voice we hear from Isaiah in our reading. You could say that our text is a “hard-hat only” area; as vast tracts of land are being leveled. A highway is going through. Because of that, to make the path straight, you have to prepare for it. The highway isn’t going through the valleys or around the mountains. In fact, there’s not going to be any more mountains or valleys for the highway that Isaiah is speaking about.
You see this highway that Isaiah is talking about is the Messiah coming. God is on His way. He doesn’t reroute for anybody, nothing is going to stand in His way. Not solid granit peaks, not deep, steep ravines. The fact is, when the Messiah comes, God Himself arrives, if you’re not prepared and you’re in the way, you’re gonna get bulldozed.
This is exactly the reason that 700 years after Isaiah first spoke these words, that his prophecy came true when John the Baptist arrives on the scene in our Gospel reading for today. John’s message was simple. “The Lord is coming! Prepare the way of the Lord!”, or in other words, “Repent!”
You see, John wasn’t concerned about mountains being run over, he didn’t care who was in the crowd, what their social status was, their economic situation was, or how educated they were. His message was the same to all, because John came to see that people didn’t get flattened when the Lord arrives. He did it by pointing out the sins of those who came to hear him. You see, lives that aren’t level, that are crooked because of sin, that are not perfectly in line with the rule of God’s Law, will be blasted away when He comes. When the heavy machinery comes rolling through in the arrival of the Messiah, anyone with sin is not going to be an innocent victim.