Sermon – December 8, 2002 – Prepare the Way of the Lord

December 8, 2002

Prepare the Way of the Lord

Advent 2

I read the other day that the U.S. has 4 million miles of roadways.
And on those roads, in 2000 according to government statistics, American
travelers covered 2.5 trillion miles. These roads go over mountains,
cross rivers, descend deep valleys, take us from coast to coast or down
the block.

It’s a fascinating side trip if you ever get the chance to stop and
watch the process and the tools that these construction contractors use to
build our roads. They use massive machines that can plow through a
granite hill, trucks full of dirt to fill the road to a proper level,
miles and miles of steel rods to reinforce the integrity of the concrete,
dozens of workers, and then these huge machines that pour the cement as
they crawl down the carefully prepared roadbed, leaving everything so
smooth and straight.

We’re good at building roads. And as a consequence of their skill
and efforts we have a pretty easy and safe journey from point a to point
b.

Laying roads from shore to shore in this country was almost as great a
challenger as laying the intercontinental railroad. It opened for us
greater commerce, and leisure and mobility. It is one of those things
of progress we thought would solve many of our problem, and surely it
has. But it turns out these roads often are becoming obstacles in
themselves, as they get more congested. Chicago, which boasts a relatively
modern highway system, has the dubious distinction of being one of the
worst areas of gridlock in the nation. Most of us have been stuck,
sometimes for hours, in traffic congestion , and all of us have had that
pleasant experience of someone cutting us off or tailgating us. They
might even share with us a variety of hand signals to thank us for
sharing the road with them, as we proceed down our modern highways. Or am
I misunderstanding my sign language.

It’s becoming apparent that the worst and most territorial parts of us
can come out when someone cuts us off, violates our highway space, or
does something stupid which we find objectionable. We even have a word
for that now, road rage. As our highways become more futuristic and
modern, our behavior becomes more primitive.

Like many other things, we keep adding more and bigger as we continue
to add capacity of our roadways, but it turns out that doesn’t solve the
traffic problems, it rarely makes us more patient and compassionate
people, and it certainly does not attend to the basic issues of how to
unclutter our lives. Bigger and more and better don’t attend to how we
unclutter, slow down, be at peace, prepare, meet each day, even as we
hear this road talk, even as we prepare for the coming of our Lord.

As we hurry along on our journeys, we discover that we might very well
be on the wrong road, have taken a wrong turn. That the roads of
consumerism or materialism or self-interest are finally more badly packed
baggage, which leave us empty and unsatisfied.

It may be even as we think are on God’s road, we need to have the way
smoothed out, evened out a little. It may be that the map to our
spiritual centers may have become torn and dog-eared, unnegotiable and
journey becomes one of confusion and wrong turns.

In this Advent season we are called to be prepared to travel a new
road, the way made for us by the one who relieves these burdens, who makes
our way straight as we follow him. As we travel that road, as we
prepare to meet the one on the other end, might we consider the fact that
part of our journey is to be better travelers?

Maybe we need to rid ourselves of some baggage, seek some forgiveness,
share more, love more, slow down, pray more. Maybe we need to be
better travelers. Attend better to the rules of this road.

Too often, I’m afraid we often employ the tools of the construction
engineer, plowing into the mountains that stand in our way with all the
effort and energy we can muster, despairing when the mountain doesn’t
move. And we clamor with all the tools we can muster to strike yet
another path, another road, trying to create our own superhighways.

But let’s go back to Isaiah. He spoke of God constructing the road,
leveling the high places and raising up the valleys. Prepare the people
for the gracious coming of his son. He spoke of the coming of the one
who will tell us it doesn’t have to be this way, we don’t have to live
a life engaged in an endless and fruitless struggle to conform the
geography of this life to our own standards. That can never be satisfying.
Rather, he spoke of the coming of the one through whom there would be
fed and gathered and carried . . . where our penalty is paid and where
the road is laid out evenly and smoothly before us, leading us out of
our wilderness, leading us away from the exhausting struggle to break
down every mountain. “Comfort, O comfort my people,” God said through
Isaiah. And I will make a path through their wilderness with a word and a
love and faithfulness that will never fade, even as the bloom goes off
my people.” God prepares the road for us. We don’t have to !
do this, God does it

John the Baptist, this eccentric prophet, preaching outside the
confines of the orthodox, of the temple of the familiar road, who speaks in
the wilderness tells us, now is the time. Prepare to step on to that
road that will lead us to peace and hope and forgiveness and eternal
life. Now, you prepare to encounter the builder of this road, the
sustainer of this journey, the guide to this great adventure of faith. And
that preparation is not the arduous, fruitless construction of ever new
roads leading to nowhere, but of simple repentance. This is knowing
who we are and who God is and why Christ is.

“You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you odd!”, declared
the writer Flannery O’Connor. The truth of the good news is that we
can live life in gracious freedom, because Christ prepares our road
through the cross. All of those side roads and distractions and
diversions cannot take us to that eternal truth. As the weeks wind down for
Christmas, why don’t we act a little oddly. Why don’t we make an effort
to share some time, some gift, some compassion with someone we know is
struggling on the journey? Why don’t we remember these charities and
these people who seek our help and generosity in the midst of all this
indulgent shopping? Why don’t we let someone ahead of us in traffic
with a wave and a smile . . so that their journey and ours may be a hair
more loving and compassionate. Why don’t we all act a little oddly
and invite another onto this road.

These are short stops on the highway that God prepares for us, small
consequences of his loving embrace of us weary travelers, but with large
consequences. Be an odd messenger on this congested road.

Turns out the cure to what ails us is not to try to create our own
superhighways, with our own tools and rules. Sometimes the cure for us,
the peace for us to be better travelers on God’s road.
Amen

Amen

Copyright (c) 2002 by Pastor Robert J. Rasmus