2nd Sunday in Advent – B LSB #’s 345 to tune LW #18, 344, 347
Text – Isaiah 40:3
A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”
THE SILENCE HAS ENDED
After more than 400 long & painful years the silence of God finally ended. What Isaiah had prophesied centuries ago is finally being fulfilled. A voice, sent by the Holy Trinity, is crying out that we should prepare the way of the Lord in the wilderness. Some days we feel it more than others, but you & I do live in a wilderness.
It’s not a wilderness of drought & sand, but a wilderness of anxiety & sin. It’s not a wilderness devoid of trees & water, but one devoid of integrity & peace & harmony. As the Christmas season approaches, many of us do a better job of faking it for a while, but once the lights & decorations come down, we’re back to our wilderness of being spiritually deaf & blind.
This is totally counter-intuitive, but our heavenly Father wants you to be certain that isn’t the worst place to be. The Gospel of Luke says: “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, & after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!”
The radical thought conveyed in those words is from Jesus Himself. He knows better than any of us what kind of wilderness in which we live. He understands because He entered our world in human flesh & lived through it all in conditions far worse than most of us have known. He never had a cellphone to use. Homes He stayed in never had electricity.
The wilderness you & I live in is a spiritual wilderness. It’s the kind of place where famous & powerful men in positions of authority have been sexually abusing women across our land. They’ve been getting away with it because of their fame & power & money. Yet, the truth of it is – it’s not a political problem. Nor is it a problem with Hollywood. Those men are spiritually deaf & blind. In positions of power they have been taking advantage of people in positions of weakness & the money has been there to cover it up.
Jesus came from the position of ultimate power, but He didn’t use fire to fight fire. Our Lord didn’t use His power to overcome power. He took the position of ultimate weakness in order to shame the strong. That is how the Son of God overcame evil, & the victory is won. John the Baptist was sent by Yahweh to break the silence & announce the arrival of our Savior.
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” (40:3 ESV) Those words of Isaiah were written 600 to 700 years before they were fulfilled. The very 1st topic the Gospel of Mark takes up is the fulfillment of that prophecy:
“The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, ‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way, the voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make His paths straight.’” (Mark 1:1-3 ESV) John the Baptist was that messenger & it was his voice that broke the silence.
Over 400 years without a prophet from God & the 1st word He sends to His people occurs literally in the wilderness, in this case one of real drought & sand. That John appeared in the wilderness seems too odd to have no significance. As soon as Jesus is baptized by John, the Son of God immediately is cast into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit for 40 days & nights of testing.
Is there a connection between the 40 years Israel spent in the wilderness & the ministry of Jesus? The Israelites were tempted in the wilderness to worship a false god in the golden calf. Satan tempted Jesus to bow down & worship him. The people of Israel were tempted with a lack of food, & so was Jesus. The Son of God responded to that temptation by quoting Scripture: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4 ESV) Do you remember who 1st spoke those words? It was Moses warning Israel, just prior to his death, not to succumb to temptation as they had in the wilderness.
As Jesus spoke the words, “Man does not live by bread alone,” He was proving to Satan that this Son of God was obedient in precisely the areas where the Israelites had failed. Christ, the Lamb of God, was crucified during Passover, which celebrates the Exodus of Israel from slavery in Egypt. As John the Baptist pointed to Jesus, the silence of God had ended!
Jesus came to earth in the flesh as the true & perfect Son of God that Israel had failed to be. On our behalf, & without sin, Jesus would trek through the wilderness of this world. In the Bible, wilderness is the place you want to journey through. It’s not the place you want to live, but it is the place that God’s people pass through on their way from slavery to freedom.
When the gospel writers speak of wilderness they want you to have that story in mind. When Isaiah speaks about wilderness he wants you to have that story in mind. Wilderness is the place of danger. It is the place of temptation & testing. It is the place where it’s easy to lose your way & spend the rest of your life wandering. Wilderness is a place where you could die.
Your hopes & dreams can die with you. It’s a place where there are no homes, & where you cannot make a home. The place where things you need to live are not easily available, perhaps not available at all. It’s the place where life is beyond our control, where beauty & sexuality can lure you to your death. It’s a place where we end up spiritually deaf & blind.
In the wilderness of our lives, a voice now calls. In this wild mess we have made of life, in a wilderness that constantly tries to turn us back into beasts – beasts of prey or beasts of burden – one voice cries out: “Prepare the way! A highway in the wilderness! Someone is coming to you! He’s not waiting in town. He’s not waiting until you find the way out, until you can make your way to Him. He is forging His way through the wilderness in which you live, & His road in will be your road out!” In Jesus Christ, Son of God & Lord of lords, hope has returned to His creation, even to our wilderness, in a most unexpected way. Messiah has come & He Himself will create in you & me a clean heart & repentant heart.
The silence of God has ended. The sun of righteousness has risen with healing in its wings. That is why Christians celebrate Christmas by looking forward to Jesus & to Him alone. Jesus is the messenger & He is the message. Amen.
On Jordan’s bank the Baptist’s cry announces that the Lord is nigh; awake & hearken, for he brings glad tidings of the King of kings! We hail Thee as our Savior, Lord, our refuge & our great reward; without Thy grace we waste away like flowers that wither & decay. All praise, eternal Son, to Thee whose advent sets Thy people free, whom with the Father we adore & Holy Spirit evermore. Amen. LSB 344:1, 3, 5.
 Luke 12:4-5 ESV
Pastor Dean R. Poellet