“Every valley shall be lifted up,
And every mountain and hill made low;
The uneven ground shall become level,
And the rough places a plain” (Isa. 40:4)
It feels like as soon as our Thanksgiving meal is done and we wake up from our turkey-induced naps, a thousand different obstacles stand between us and Christmas.
Huge on the list for being ready for Christmas is putting up decorations. For many of us, we’re not prepared until the tree is up and decorated and the lights on the house all work properly. This and other obstacles have to do with us preparing the way for Christmas. Through our efforts, we try to bring about Christmas as we think it should be.
Tuesday of the First Week of Advent
Sometimes we fancy ourselves modern John the Baptists— voices crying out in the wilderness of Christmas consumerism, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord! Jesus is the reason for the season! It’s Merry Christmas, not happy holidays!”
But does a yard sign reminding your neighbor (whom you don’t talk to) that “Jesus is the reason for the season” lift up every valley and make low every mountain? Or does it make those valleys deeper and mountains higher? Does a snarky under-your-breath comment to the cashier wishing everyone (not just you) a happy holiday season make uneven ground level and rough places plain? Or does it make plain places rough and level places rocky?
Isaiah 40:3-4 is part of the gospel prophecy of John the Baptist and the message God called him to bring as the “voice” crying out to prepare the way for Jesus’ coming. But often left out of our thinking is verse 5: “And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
Who is it that prepares the way for Christmas? God himself, through his word. John did not make up his message; God gave it to him. God spoke his word through John.
Likewise, we do not prepare the way for Christmas. It comes whether we’re ready or not. Rather, it is God who prepares us through his word. His word of law (his demands and com- mands) level us and our attempts at self-righteousness. His word of gospel (his promises fulfilled for us) fills in the valleys where we are empty.
God prepares us ultimately through his Word made flesh, Jesus, his Son, our forgiver, and our Lord. He prepares through the good news of his forgiving Word made flesh preached to us and given to us in the sacraments.
Heavenly Father, prepare us in this season of Advent to receive the good news of your Word, our Savior. Amen.