Two roads diverged in a text, and I—
I took them both.
(With apologies to Robert Frost.)
Advent’s texts are filled with travel. Jesus urged disciples to flee the city at the first sign of destruction. John the Baptizer warns his hearers to flee the wrath that is to come. Late in the season we read of a journey to an inn-less city. This Sunday we navigate a single road, but from two different vantage points.
Isaiah promises the people in exile that God will come to them. (Isaiah 40.1-11) This might not seem odd to us. But to the Chosen People, who believed that God resided in The Temple in Jerusalem, who grieved God’s alleged absence during their hiatus from the Holy Land, the idea that God would lace up the Nikes and run to them was more than odd; it was heretical. Their sojourn in the wilderness had been all about finding a homeland, a stable place for themselves and for the Ark of the Covenant. Annual pilgrimages to Jerusalem were journeys toward God. But in this familiar text, Isaiah promised that they no longer need to go looking for God; God would come to them. God exercises the “reversible” option on that desert expressway.
Mark describes that same road, from the same prophetic text, but for another traveler (Mark 1.1-8) John the Baptizer appeared in the wilderness to the tune of that familiar Isaiah song: “Prepare the way of the Lord; make the Lord’s paths straight.” The people who first heard John the Baptizer wondered if he might be the traveler for whom they longed, the promised peripatetic Messiah. So they came running to see. In a highly hyperbolic claim, Mark says that “people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem” came out to hear him. A crowd of that size was simply not possible, but, true to form, the Chosen People (and some of their unchosen neighbors) imagined they had to do the traveling, the running, the searching. Instead, John the Baptizer pointed away from himself toward the road that Isaiah had promised. “One who is more powerful than I is coming. To you. Wait for him.”
Friends, we don’t need to go looking for God, peering into dark alleys or pursuing stray rumors. God is not lodged somewhere, playing hide-and-seek with us. God is on the way to us, on a highway straight and level.
Join us this Sunday to hear about those reversible lanes, God’s decision not to wait to be found, but to come to us. Our Sunday School Children meet at 9:30 a.m. to sing. We Worship at 10 a.m. to study, to sing, to pray, to wait. The Forte Family will light the second candle on our Advent wreath. In the afternoon we invite you to our Advent Christmas Concert—we will sing of God’s promised peace to the accompaniment of orchestra, children and adult choirs, and readers.
On Sunday we will sing, “Prepare the royal highway; the King of Kings is near!” It’s true. Christ is coming soon. Join us as we wait.
Pastor JoAnn Post