On this second Sunday of the Advent journey, the Word of God is announced to us as it was written in the book of Isaiah and fulfilled in the ministry of John the Baptist. Long ago God declared: "I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight'".
We are familiar with the message, "Prepare the way of the Lord," for it was the central message of John the Baptist, the one whom God had sent to set the stage for the coming of Jesus as the savior of the world.
John the Baptist, now there is a character! He went running about the wilderness of Judea yelling and screaming, "Repent, the Kingdom of God is at hand!" and "Prepare the way of the Lord, make his path straight!" John dressed funny, he wore a garment made of camel's hair and a leather belt around his waist. He also ate a strange diet, composed of whatever was around, in his case, locusts and wild honey.
John had something to say to the world and no one and nothing was going to stop him. He didn't care what he looked like. He didn't care what people thought about him, all he cared about was proclaiming the kingdom of God.
John was not your average cleric, he didn't behave well, he was not refined or dignified. He did not conduct liturgies in a nice church sanctuary or stand behind a nice pulpit and deliver sophisticated homilies to an attentive parish. No, John took his message to the streets! If John were here today, he would probably be downtown in middle of the public square. He would be right in the center of the holiday shopping crowd as they counted down the "shopping days till Christmas" next to the Salvation Army kettle and the street musicians. There he would be shouting and yelling, "Repent! and Prepare the way of the Lord!" Then he would offer to take shopping bag laden sinners to a nearby fountain to be baptized with water for repentance. Many of the shoppers would probably turn their heads away or say "there goes another grubby homeless guy who is doesn't have both oars in the water."
Yes, people today would not pay much attention to John or his message. But we should pay attention. For John realized that the Lord Jesus was coming and he knew that the prophecy of Isaiah would be fulfilled in Jesus. He knew he had to cry that "the people are grass." He had to cry that they are "like flowers in the field." He had to cry that "the grass withers and the flower fades but the Word of God would stand forever" and that Word of God was coming soon, in the flesh of Jesus.
Yes, many people today would not pay much attention to John or his message. But we should pay attention, because John is telling us important things, things we need to know as we wait for the Lord.
He is telling us to be faithful to the Lord and faithful to the reign of God. He is telling us that life can be a wilderness in which it is hard to hear God's word. John is telling us to be prophetic and speak the word of the Lord. He is telling us not to be overly concerned with exterior things like our appearance, but to concentrate on the condition of our souls. Lastly, John is telling us to keep tuned in to the reality of God's reign and to tell others about the coming of the Lord, no matter how hopeless we think the cause may be.
There is a story I once heard about an old man who lived in the center of a desolate and hopeless city. The man walked outside of his house and onto the streets and yell "Love, peace, righteousness!" The next day he would do the same thing, he would leave his house, walk onto the street and yell at the top of his lungs "Love, peace and righteousness!" He would do this everyday, rain or shine, like clockwork.
One day the man's next door neighbor who was tired of the daily yelling, went out on the street and confronted him. He said "Hey man, are you crazy?, what the heck do you think you are doing? Every day you come out of your house and yell 'love, peace and righteousness!' Fool, don't you know nobody is listening to you! This city is full of hate and crime and hopelessness, there is no love of neighbor and there is no peace and righteousness to be found, so give it a rest and save your breath! Don't you know that you can't change the world?"
The old man said, "You are right, my yelling and shouting about 'love, peace and righteousness' may not change the world, but one thing it will do is to stop the world from changing me."
During this week of Advent, remember to prepare the way of the Lord within your life and in within your own soul and keep in the corner of your mind the old man of the story and John the Baptist to inspire you. In your our own way, go and tell others to "prepare the way of the Lord." Keep at this, for it you evangelical mission. Keep at it, whether or not you believe anyone cares, whether or not you believe anyone will listen, at least you'll care, at least you'll be listening, as you tell yourself and the world "Prepare the Royal Highway, for the King of Kings is near, Let every hill and valley a level road appear, then greet the King of Glory, foretold in the sacred story and say Hosanna to the Lord, for he fulfill's God's Word." (Stanza from the popular hymn "Prepare the Royal Highway")