Church Year, New Writing

Preparing for a King

In the second week of Advent I have been pondering what it means to prepare a highway for Jesus. This Advent highway has a wonderful word picture:

Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain (Isaiah 40:4).

It is, first, an imaginative rearranging of nature’s terrain making way for a King. This is not “Jesus, meek and mild.” This picture on the way to Mount Rainier gives me a visual to ponder. Our returning king has the power to rearrange the mountains and make a path right through them. He will get under the uneven ground and any rough places he finds that inhibits real peace. His kingly peace will be an extension of his justice. Prepare the royal highway. The king is coming, and this time nature itself bends low.

Second, these vivid statements can also offer a thorough Advent meditation on the preparation of our hearts to meet this King.

  • Where is fear holding me back from listening to and obeying this king?
  • Where has pride stiffened me into an unyielding mountain that needs to be brought low?
  • What unbidden paths unevenly thread their way through my mind and heart, carrying my bumpy hidden conversations with the persons who displease me in my life?

From this vantage point it is not hard to identify the anger and resentment, the greed and envy that makes for a very rough road.

At Christmas, we sing about Jesus entering our hearts. But this is not only a baby that gives us warm and comforting feelings. As king, Jesus wants to rule in our hearts.  This King comes to set us free and knows the challenging terrain of the human heart. He wants us to move freely and fully in the Kingdom he brings and He will not be satisfied with anything less.

But there is one more application of this vision of preparation for the King. What mountains should be leveled and valleys lifted, what crooked places straightened and rough places made smooth in our world? Christian social visions of what this highway might look like have become radically different among those who name Jesus as their king.

But I do want make an observation. It’s the King’s highway. And perhaps some intentional preparation of our hearts can open all of us up to a more nuanced posture of the social justice Jesus comes to bring. He did not simply come to live in our hearts and take us home to heaven. He came to love the world. To make peace where there is no peace. To love us way beyond our comfort zone of what it means to be loved. To bring justice that will astonish us all.

Prepare the royal highway.  The King is coming.

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