When my grandson Connor was three years old, he absolutely loved everything to do with construction. Bob the Builder was his hero. Connor’s genuine ACE Hardware tool bench,( which he received as a reward for being potty trained!), was his prized possession. When he’d come to visit me, he was in heaven when I set him up on the garage workbench and allowed him to pound a nail with a real hammer into a block of wood to his heart’s content.
When I kept him overnight and had the pleasure of reading him his bedtime stories, he always chose his favorite, a large picture book about construction machinery. Connor and I poured over colorful pictures of dump trucks, cranes, cement trucks, steam shovels, and, his favorite, bulldozers. I read to him a description of what kind of work each was used for, what special job each can accomplish.
And so as I was studying this week’s Gospel lesson, Luke 3:1-6, with its focus on preparing the way of the LORD, I thought about that heavy equipment shown in Connor’s book, capable of digging, moving heavy rocks out of the way, and shifting massive amounts of dirt, smoothing very rough terrain into a straight road.
Did you know that in the ancient world, this road-straightening work was actually done in preparation for a king’s visit to a town? A crew would be sent out ahead to level the road in advance of the king’s coming, boulders would be removed, low places filled in, hills smoothed down, until the highway was nice and straight for the king and his entourage. And so we have this strong image from the prophet Isaiah’s words quoted in Luke calling for the preparation that needs to be done to get ready for the coming of the Lord, “A voice cries out: “In the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”
Then John the baptizer appears to do just that, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins That is the road-straightening task that each of us is to be about this Advent. We are called to recognize and to repent of that which gets in the way of the coming of the king into our hearts and lives and into our world.
In his book A Pilgrim’s Almanac, Edward Hays writes, “Our Advent work is more than wrapping gift packages and decorating the Christmas tree. The call of Advent is a radical one, for it challenges us to clear out of the way anything that prevents the path of God from being straight. What make that path crooked are ideas, attitudes, institutions, structures and systems that are not aligned with peace and justice. Advent calls us to more than a change of heart; it also calls us to a change of society—and to the radical prayer that enables both.”
And so I invite you to do your part in praying and working for peace and justice this Advent. A good way to begin that work is to be present in worship Sunday when we light the second candle on the Advent wreath, the candle of PEACE, and consider more fully the prophet’s words.
In Christ’s love,
Pastor Candy Thomas
Christ Congregational United Church of Christ