Summary: John the Baptist brings the word of the Lord: There’s Road Construction ahead! This is a sermon for Advent 2, Year B.
“Over the river and through the woods, to grandmother’s house we go!” Although this isn’t a Christmas song, it certainly highlights two elements that play such a big part of many people’s holiday celebrations: traveling, and family. Our first and deepest memories of Christmas are often tied up in the family, people who have meant so much to us throughout the years, stories of Christmases past and the loved ones closest to us. After all, Christmas is the celebration of the Holy family, Jesus’ birth into his family, and the unlikely visitors who came to celebrate with them on that first Christmas.
Then there’s travel. Mary & Joseph traveled over the holiday season; the Magi traveled to see the baby Jesus, bringing with them a trunk full of Christmas presents. And with our families being so spread across the nation and world, traveling to spend the holidays with family and other loved ones has almost become part of the ritual of the season.
In this Advent season, we are on a journey as well. We journey toward Bethlehem to witness the miracle of Jesus’ birth. But we also journey towards the end of all time, when Christ Jesus will come among us again, to take us to our eternal home to spend eternity with the God who loves us with a love that will not let us go.
I remember as child, when we would go on road trips, we had certain games that we played to help pass the time. I’d race with my brother to see who could find all the letters of the alphabet in order, looking on the street signs and billboards. We’d pick a certain sign, and see who could find the most of their kind of sign. My favorite was always “Exit, 25 MPH.” It always seemed like there were more “exit” signs than any other sign.
And so, as we continue down the road to Bethlehem, we see some signs along our way. Last week, Jesus warned us to be alert, watching for God’s unexpected activity in our lives and in our world. Today, the sign we see is one that most of us dread seeing while along our highways: Road Construction Ahead.
Why is it that we get so upset when we see a sign for road construction? We should be happy, because in the not too distant future, the road work will be complete, and our travels will be even safer and more time efficient than ever before. Right? But still, we see that sign, or we see the infamous orange barrels, and we get upset. “Not Road Construction again! Didn’t they just finish working on this road?” We get impatient when we see road construction signs, because they speak to us more of inconvenience, hassles, and delays, rather than the benefits that are hidden in the distant future.
Is that what we feel when we see today’s sign? Road Construction. Two more weeks until we get to sing the Christmas carols. Eighteen more shopping days until Christmas, in which we have to squeeze a month or more worth of work. Maybe, just maybe, we’ll get to enjoy the holiday this year, instead of getting caught up in the frenzy of busy shoppers and wrapping presents late, late at night. But instead we are faced with a sign of work in progress: Road Construction. Proceed with Caution.
As we drive by the work site, we see John the Baptist shouting with the powerful words of the prophet Isaiah, almost like a highway foreman, “Prepare the way of the Lord! Make that path straight! Fill that valley! Get that mountain outta here! Hey, what happened over there? It’s all crooked! Make it straight! Smooth out that rough place! We gotta show everyone the salvation of God. Get busy!” (Luke 3:4-6)
Things are busy at God’s construction company. They are hard at work, making new roads, and repairing older sections of our highway. How many of you have seen or worked on the construction of a highway? It’s quite an involved process. Road construction can be very labor intensive! Sometimes mountains of rock and dirt need to be blasted out of the way, or embankments built up so that the new roadway will be wide, safe, and stable. It’s a lot of work, and it can take a lot of time, but the efforts often pay off, as people can reach their destination safer and faster than ever before.
When God’s construction company moves in to work in our lives, we find that there’s much work to be done. As we look around, we can see our God doing new things in new and old situations. Maybe God is opening up for you a new area of possibility, something new and exciting that you can do to spread God’s good news and serve the neighbor in need. Perhaps God is leading you into a new friendship, or a co-worker who is curious about your faith. When we step back and let our Lord lead, we can see the Holy Spirit working in new and stirring ways, ways that we would never have thought of on our own. Broadcasting worship on TV? Extending Christian hospitality through playing cards? Who would have thought? “Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” (Luke 3:4-6) Who would have thought? What new roads is God building in your life?