January 19, 2022

Prepare the Way of the Lord! 05-12-2021

5th December 2021 (Advent 2)

Title: Prepare the Way of the Lord!

(Scripture Reading: Luke 3:1-6; Philippians 1: 3-11)

                                                                                      By Heeyoung Lim

We usually clean our house every time we invite a guest, but Advent is a time to purify ourselves and await the coming of the Lord. Advent offers the church the opportunity to remind of Christ’s coming and prepare in faith. At home people are cleaning, getting out their Christmas decorations, purchasing gifts, hosting, and attending parties, and simply getting ready for Christmas. However, John demands that we get ready for Jesus. Advent is a time to prepare to welcome Jesus and not simply our invited Christmas guests. 

God’s salvation is available for every person, not just a chosen few. God’s invitation for salvation reaches out both men and women, poor and rich, Gentiles and Jews. This Advent Sunday is a great time for us to be reminded of that. A key theological theme in Luke is that God’s invitation toward salvation is for all people. In Luke 3 John the Baptist prepares the way for the coming of the Messiah by calling on people to repent from their sins. Forgiveness of sins comes only through repentance that involves a change of lifestyle, not just a momentary feeling or statement. 

Today’s text invites us to confess our sins, repent, and ask God for forgiveness. Repentance is sometimes accompanied by discomfort and heart-breaking moments, but it is a time of being cared for by the word of the Lord in our relationship with God, and it is a time of joy and peace that the Lord has given us. We can ask God to show us the changes repentance should bring in our daily life. May we change our life in the ways God shows us through words, prayers, and praises.

God sent the message to John, not in Rome, not in Jerusalem, but out in the wilderness. John prepared for his ministry and proclaimed his message in the wilderness. It is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. Isaiah 40:3–5 was a word to the exiles in Babylon and it brought comfort to the people of Israel who were in their time of oppression. The oppressed and the least will be comforted with God’s rescue because God had not forgotten them and would not neglect them. Isaiah called all people to prepare for the Lord by making crooked paths straight, lifting up valleys, and making rough places plain.

Luke uses Isaiah’s words to show the continuity between the ministries of John and of Jesus: John’s coming was not only predicted, but his message was the good news, for his message of repentance was the one that prepares the way for the Lord. John’s challenge is to repent and prepare. True repentance means to change one’s mind, turn around, reorient oneself. Luke 3 calls all people to turn to God, to seek God’s forgiveness, and to prepare the way of the Lord. How to prepare the way for the Lord? I believe that we can prepare the way for the Lord through being peacemaker and doing true repentance. 

In addition, as in Isaiah 40, the way for the Lord would be prepared by making crooked paths straight, lifting up valleys, and making rough places plain. All of these can be connected to making peace. This week we live in the prophetic message that makes twisted paths straight, lifts valleys, and makes rough places plain to prepare for the Lord.

God is consistent, sticks to his purposes, fulfills his word, and then brings new fulfillment for new generations and times. For John’s generation, salvation came in the similar setting as for the exiles who were in the wilderness. However, it came in a new way. People did not have to cross the dry desert, they had to cross the line of self-centred religious pride. Even now, God allows and leads us to cross our hurdles of our faith and life. The appearance of the wilderness and the things we need to overcome through repentance are constantly changing, but the fact that the truth is proclaimed in the wilderness and that we are living in preparation for the coming of the Lord does not change.

In Luke 3:1–6 John the Baptist implores those gathered people to remove any obstacles that are hindering openness to the renewed ways of peace and justice that God has promised to reveal through the child to come. John was the messenger of change and prepared the way for the Lord. 

In Philippians 1, Paul expressed his gratitude to God every time he remembers the church. God brings grace and peace to his church, and those are possible only from our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Bill Lawrence, a theologian, once said, “Happiness is based on happenings, but joy comes from relationships.” A relationship with Christ is necessary to achieve fruit in the Christian life. The Philippian Christians had supported his efforts and participated in the gospel since they had trusted Christ as their Saviour during Paul’s ministries. The partnership through active participation in the gospel caused Paul’s joy. (5) Being partners in the gospel of Christ will bring joy in our lives. Especially, love is a primary characteristic of Christlikeness, and God is the witness of Paul’s love for Philippians. (8) 

Paul expressed his love Jesus showed, prayed for love and faith growth of Philippians, and continued to pray for discernment of what is best. (10) Christian love must be rooted in wisdom from God’s Word if we are to love both God and people in greater ways. We are to base our decisions on Scripture so that the best way is selected. When these are observed in our lives, we can be pure and blameless. As last Sunday’s message, being pure or blameless does not mean perfection or sinlessness. Paul prayed that these Christians would develop a genuine lifestyle without hypocrisy before God and people.

In Philippians1, Paul reflects the hope for purity, blamelessness, and righteousness and assures that we share in God’s grace and participate in the gospel. God who started His work in our lives will finish it. We are confident of what God has already done and know that God who began a good work in us will carry it on to completion. As believers, we are to grow in the Christian life becoming more like Christ each day. Spiritual growth should continue in committed believers until Christ returns to the earth. I believe all of this can be achieved through our repentance, love, faith growth, and participation in the gospel. May we change our lives in the ways God shows us.

We are held in God’s heart. God’s reign is a “now” experience, but it is also a “not yet” hope. As we live toward God’s reign in experience and hope, the glory and praise belong not to us but to God since God is at work in us. The fruit of righteousness is Christian Character that glorifies God. We do not yet fully walk in the way of peace, however, when God shapes and refines us, we can act confidently as God’s people and live by the gospel as Jesus’ disciples. May we deliver God’s word and the light of hope and peace to people in need. May we be filled with fellowship, love, and the fruits of righteousness in Christ.

Thanks be to God! Amen.
(Ref. Bible, commentaries, theological books, UCA materials)