This week’s verse comes from the Prophet Isaiah, from those great verses that foreshadow the coming of Christ ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God……’
Strangely this is one of my favourite verses in the Bible. It is a verse that is always associated with Advent and Nine Lessons and Carols. It is a verse that as soon as you hear it draws the mind to the smell of pine and the taste of mince pies. However, I’m not completely convinced that is its sole reason for being in the lectionary for Advent 1 nor do I believe that when John the Baptiser quotes it in the Gospels, that he is promoting a Roman construction company that has a particular ability to make straight roads.
For John and Isaiah, there was a far deeper meaning. A meaning that taught about the folly of the secular and the joy of God. For John stood on the banks of the Jordan the community was one that had lost its way. A community that had strayed from the path that God had set and one that needed to prepare the way for the Lord, by repenting. So why a straight road? Why not a ‘don’t make me come up there…’ moment that all parents know well?
Anybody that has spent any time reading the bible will know that it is full of metaphor, allegory and simile and this is certainly a case in question. For Isaiah and John, the point to make is not about roads or travelling. It is about the straight and narrow path that leads to total dependence on God. It is about following the rules. Now for many, that would seem completely contradictory to the principle of free will which is the ultimate expression of love.
However, I would argue that is oversimplifying the case. In fact, it is certain rules that set us free rather than restrict us. For example, my rule of saying morning and evening prayer, albeit the following of tradition, allows me to place my dependency upon God to get me through the day. This relieves me of many worries and allows me to concentrate my efforts on my ministry, rather than worrying about what the next problem is that is coming my way. I believe that although rules can be restricting having some rules to live by can also be liberating. I have rules around exercise, prayer, reading, family time etc that all help me get my home/work-life balance. They set me free from so much and get at the same time keep me grounded in my faith. So here is my challenge to you this Advent…….
“What rules you could bring into your life, that would make your journey through each day, straighter and simpler”.