Advent 2b – Sunday 4th December 2011
Mark 1: 1-8
I’m not fit for work today! Tired, stressed, aching. Boy, I need a couple of days off.
“You’ve just had the weekend!” I hear you shout.
I know, but I’ve been decorating. Ah. Those dreaded words. Stripping, sanding, smoothing, pasting, painting, sweeping, fixing, mending. Wow, too much.
Well, if there is an upside, my DIY exposure this weekend has given me an insight into this week’s reading:
John said, ‘Prepare for God’s arrival! Make the road smooth and straight!’
New electrical sockets mean you have to polyfilla the holes left behind. And trying to get that polyfilla smooth and straight is a nightmare. I spent ages hunched over filling, smoothing, spraying, smoothing, And eventually I felt that the four sites would look ok once the wallpaper was put on, and not covering some sort of moon-like crater.
If making the walls smooth and straight is such a tough job then how difficult will it be making the road smooth and straight preparing for God’s arrival?
Isaiah leaves me a bit confused here, because on the one hand he says: “I’m sending my preacher ahead of you; He’ll make the road smooth for you.” But then he immediately follows that up with: “He is a voice shouting in the wilderness, ‘Prepare for God’s arrival! Make the road smooth and straight!’” So who is going to smooth the road? The preacher? Or us?
Personally, I think that’s a big ask for me. I’m not sure I have all that it takes to smooth the road. John the Baptist was a mountain of a man. Never afraid to risk everything for God, never afraid to confront injustice, never afraid to boldly proclaim God’s kingdom, never afraid to live every minute for God. Am I like him? I don’t exactly make a bee line for the locust and honey aisle down at the supermarket, although my fashion sense sounds similar to his.
But the more I ponder this dilemma the more I see behind the text. As I sit here trying to think who I know that could match up to John the Baptist I’m drawn to two ministers who had a profound influence on my life. One showed me the depths of love that God has in his heart for me, and the other gave me the confidence to hear God’s calling. They smoothed the road for me. They prepared my life for the arrival of God. I accepted Jesus Christ – lock, stock and two smoking barrels – because they put the polyfilla in my life.
That’s why the preacher makes the road smooth for me, and then I have to make the road smooth for someone else – or hopefully many others. And how am I equipped for this?
As he preached he said, “The real action comes next: The star in this drama, to whom I’m a mere stagehand, will change your life. I’m baptizing you here in the river, turning your old life in for a kingdom life. His baptism—a holy baptism by the Holy Spirit—will change you from the inside out.”
Changed from the inside out. The old life no more. The possibilities now endless. The opportunities spread out in front of us. And all because the baptism of the Holy Spirit puts it within our grasp. I’m not John the Baptist. I’m not Billy Graham. I’m not Elsie Chamberlain. But I am a child of God who has the ability to put another’s hand in the hand of God – by the way I live my life, by the things I say, by the company I keep, by the grace of God.
Advent is a time of waiting. Of revelation. Of smoothing the way. I’m excited. I’ve got my Bible in one hand and my pasting brush in the other.