Preparing a Highway

2020-12-06 – Year B – Advent 2 – The Rev. Christopher M. Klukas
Isaiah 40:1-11; Psalm 85; Mark 1:1-8

  • In the summer of 1919, a truck convoy of 81 Army vehicles was sent on a mission to cross the continental United States from Washington D.C. to San Francisco.
  • The group made their trip under simulated war time conditions, and they didn’t even know if the mission was possible. The convoy averaged about 6 mph. and the trip lasted 62 days. 
  • A 28 year old named Major Dwight Eisenhower participated in the journey.
  • Years later, General Eisenhowever, Supreme Allied Commander of Europe During World War II saw the important military benefits of the German Highway system, the Autobahn.
  • As President or the United States, Eisenhower persuaded Congress to pass the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 which created the Interstate Highway System.
  • My mother remembers family vacations before the interstates. When she was a child her family would travel from Buffalo, NY to Enderlin, ND every summer. The trip would take 3-4 days there and 3-4 day back. Today you can make the same trip in 18 hrs!
  • “The technical standards for the highways were highly regulated—lanes had to be 12 feet wide and shoulders 10 feet wide, the bridges had to have 14 feet of clearance, grades had to be less than 30 percent, and the highway had to be designed for travel at 70 miles an hour.”
  • There is a tremendous amount of preparation required to be able to build a highway. Most of it is moving dirt!
  • New section of the toll road near Lake Asbury.

Return from Exile

  • Isaiah 40:3-4 – make straight in the desert a highway for our God
  • Much of the book of Isaiah was written to God’s people in exile.
  • This season of Pandemic can feel like an exile. Especially between Thanksgiving and Christmas, times that would normally be full of gatherings, family, and celebration.
    • This can help us to identify with the People of God in exile in Babylon.
    • This can also help us to understand the exile that we all experience all the time.
    • O Come, O Come Emmanuel / and ransom captive Isreal / that mourns in lonely exile here / until the Son of God appear.
    • These are words of comfort spoken to desolate Jerusalem (Isaiah 40:1)
    • Barber named “Manuel” – Emmanuel means “God with us”
    • Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel / shall come to you o Israel.
  • The highway isn’t designed for our return, but for the coming of the Lord!
    • The Lord did restore his people and return them to Jerusalem and Judea
    • This prophecy also points to something beyond the return of the exiles.

Confess your Sins and Be Cleansed

  • Mark 1:4 – John the Baptist, Baptism of repentance.
  • “11. What does it mean for you to repent? To repent means that I have a change of heart, turning from sinfully serving myself to serving God as I follow Jesus Christ. I need God’s help to make this change.”
  • Get off the highway and go the other way.
  • It turns out that preparing the way of the Lord is not about highway construction at all but about the inward preparation of repentance.
  • Listen to Isaiah 40:4 again, thinking about your heart.
    • What valleys need to be lifted up? What mountains need to be knocked down? What are the rough places in our life that need to be smoothed?
    • Our low sense of self-worth needs to be met with the worth we find in God.
    • Our pride needs to be met with the humility that comes from our humble God.
    • The rough places need to be smoothed out by the holiness of God.
  • The Lord softens our hard hearts by his Holy Spirit and gives us the ability to repent.
  • The Forgiveness of the Lord – Isaiah 40:1-2
    • “…double for all her sins”
    • “the people will receive a double portion of God’s grace (not a double punishment)”
      • “only God’s grace brings forgiveness of sins. Human suffering is sometimes a punishment for sin, but no salvation or merit is gained just because people justly suffer for their own iniquity. God’s compassionate forgiveness of Jerusalem will be an act of divine grace that will bring comfort to his people.”
    • This is consistent with the two phrases before it.
    • When we turn to the Lord, he is quick to forgive and his grace is abundant!

Point the Way to Jesus

  • Song of Zechariah (Luke 1:76-79) – “You my child…”
  • Who prepared the way in your heart? Who told you about the Gospel and helped you to understand it?
    • The preparation for the coming of the Lord is not unlike the oxygen masks on an airplane. Secure your own preparation and then make sure those around you are prepared as well!
  • Who in your life needs the comfort of God? The hope of God? The grace of God? The forgiveness of God?
  • Who needs to know about “Emmanuel” the God who is “with us.”
  • Who needs to hear a tender voice declaring that “her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the Lord’s hand” a double portion of grace to cover all her sins.

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