Prepare the Way of the Lord
2nd Sunday of Advent – C LSB #’s 354, 347, 344
Text – Luke 3:4
As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make His paths straight.’”
PREPARE THE WAY OF THE LORD
In 1 Samuel 3, verse 1 tells us: “Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the LORD in the presence of Eli. And the word of the LORD was rare in those days…” 1400 years later, in the 3rd chapter of Luke’s gospel we hear: “…during the high priesthood of Annas & Caiaphas, the word of God came to John… in the wilderness.” (3:2 ESV)
In the centuries between, the Word of the Lord ebbed & flowed with the willingness of the people to listen. The high point was most likely during the reign of David, & a clear low point came about with God’s final words of the OT through the prophet Malachi:
“Look, I am sending you the prophet Elijah before the great & dreadful day of the Lord arrives. His preaching will turn the hearts of fathers to their children, & the hearts of children to their fathers. Otherwise I will come & strike the land with a curse.” (4:5-6 ESV)
Ominous words to end the OT. And after them, the Word of the Lord flowed to a complete halt for over 400 years. That brings us to the Gospel of Luke: “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make His paths straight.’” John the Baptist was created & sent by Yahweh to bring the Word of the Lord to people willing to hear.
The Baptist does not come across as a kinder & gentler sort of prophet. His words are like fire & brimstone: “…You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? …Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down & thrown into the fire.” (Luke 3:7 & 9 ESV)
If you’ve had any experience with getting burned you are well aware that fire hurts, &
the wound it leaves can hurt for a long time. God uses fire as a way of picturing His wrath. For two or three hundred years Western Christians have been attempting to avoid altogether the topic or even the existence of God’s wrath. John the Baptist makes people feel uncomfortable.
And yet, the more our cultures have tried to place human beings in charge of daily life, & the more we have tried to hold Yahweh at arm’s length – nice to have gotten us started, God! – the less personal our Creator has become in our thinking, the weaker & more frivolous our conception of His personality.
He has turned from the medieval Father, angry with us for sinning, into a modern Father who is forgetful, neglectful, largely absent in fact from the hours of our faults & failures. John the Baptist reminds us that God does not like us to be sinning, & that He is as angry as hellfire about our failure to fear, to love & to trust in Him above anything that has been created.
God abhors the mess we make of our lives because He is a loving Father who knows how much better things could be. The OT is filled with stories of God calling His people to Himself through expressions of His distaste for their sins. He knows personally the damage sin has done.
The cracking & creaking of our lives demonstrates that whatever we have used to hold life together is not a worthy substitute for the Creator. Yahweh is a loving Father according to His very essence. So His wrath burns against anything that turns His children away from the good He intends for them. Fire hurts, & the wound it leaves can burn for eternity.
Sadly, human beings bring the fire upon themselves & in their twisted thinking they call it good. What is good they strive to call evil. In response to the same tendencies of his day, John the Baptist preached: “As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make His paths straight.’””
In other words, stop calling what is evil good! Stop calling what is good evil! Make
the path of Christ straight, not crooked! Speak the truth & do it with love. That sentence has two parts to it. Do you know which the followers of Jesus struggle with? People who follow Christ know the truth even when we lie. It’s love that we cannot comprehend or know apart from Jesus crucified!
Going back to Luke 3, the rulers of the earth are named – Roman & Jewish, imperial & local, secular & religious. If you examine it closely, you’ll find a striking contrast between the introductory clauses of 39 words & the main clause of only 11. Can you detect what the Holy Spirit is highlighting with such stark contrast? Here are the introductory clauses:
“In the 15th year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, & Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, & his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea & Trachonitis, & Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas & Caiaphas.”
They are the ruling structure of the world – movers & shakers, rulers & powerbrokers. They were the very men who made the world go round – in the eyes of men. And the main clause, it could not be in sharper contrast to them: “…the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness.” Neither to the rulers nor to their palaces does Yahweh come.
What is the Holy Spirit highlighting with such stark contrast? That God Almighty does not save His people through the human powers on earth. Instead, He works through the weak & the lowly, like a peasant family spending the night in a cattle stall, because there was no room for them at the inn where people of means & of power would stay.
Yet, St. Luke places this narrative in a historical context that is both Roman & Jewish, secular & religious, to show that the Word of God coming to John is a significant event in both salvation & world history. Though ‘the world’ does not believe in God, still He is their ruler & their Creator. God alone establishes their reality. Though human beings may fancy this to be true, there is no ‘your’ truth & ‘my’ truth. There is only His truth, & being corrupted by sin you & I cannot perceive truth unless the Holy Spirit reveals it to us. John the Baptist calls you & me to Prepare The Way Of The Lord, but that happens only by the power of God. Our Creator calls everyone to repent & return to Him. Some yield to His call. Others refuse.
Before God became silent, with the end of Malachi’s words, He gave His people this torah, this instruction: “Remember, see, & turn.” It is our sinful nature & that alone which separates us from our Creator. To prepare the way of the Lord is simply to surrender to Him.
God is love. As we submit to Him He will hold our lives together perfectly – perfectly according to His sight. Do you trust that God can see? Only as we submit to God can we speak the truth in love. Only as we submit to God can we love at all. We prepare for the cure through submitting to a crucified Savior. As we surrender to His will we prepare the way of the Lord.
John the Baptist was sent to point out how far from God His people had wandered. They were completely lost by the end of the OT, & things did not improve over the following 400 years. Yet, this is what our Creator saw with His perfect vision:
“…the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”
Your sinful nature has separated you from the perfect relationship your heavenly Father had designed for you. The church’s season of Advent is about preparing for the cure! We prepare through repentance, what the season of Advent used to signify. We prepare the way of the Lord through repentance but that still falls short of the cure.
Repentance is the preparation. Receiving adoption as children of God – that is the purpose. Being perfectly reunited with our Creator in a beautiful & harmonious relationship is the purpose that a repentant heart prepares you for. Our sinful nature leads us away from our Lord, & the Holy Spirit turns us back to Him through repentance. Hopefully you’ve heard by now that the very 1st of Martin Luther’s 95 theses stated that the whole life of the Christian should be one of repentance. Preparing the way of the Lord is what our lives should revolve around, because Jesus is the source of resurrection life that will last for eternity.
The confession of our sins is not to be something we do grudgingly. It is to be a yearning for our Lord’s forgiveness & for the life which that brings.
Since Christmas is over two weeks away, I expect many of you still have a fair of amount of preparing to do before it arrives. Even if our culture does, John the Baptist did not shy away from the truth of Yahweh’s coming wrath. It was not John’s purpose that people should suffer & die, but the end is drawing near. Christ will return. Jesus wants you to be ready.
This very moment His Word is near to you. That you are here today proves that your heavenly Father has begun a good work in you. Surrender to Him that He may bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Then, you will see with your own eyes the cure which the season of Advent is meant to prepare you for. Amen.
Hark, the herald’s voice is crying in the desert far & near, calling sinners to repentance, since the Kingdom now is here. O that warning cry obey! Now prepare for God a way; let the valleys rise to meet Him & the hills bow down to greet Him. “Comfort, comfort ye My people, speak ye peace,” thus saith our God; “Comfort those who sit in darkness, mourning ’neath their sorrows’ load. Speak ye to Jerusalem of the peace that waits for them; tell her that her sins I cover & her warfare now is over.” Amen. LSB 347:3, 1.
 Luke 3:4 ESV
 Luke 3:1-2 ESV
 Galatians 4:4-5 ESV
Pastor Dean R. Poellet