We all have to deal with it: roadwork. When you’re driving on vacation, or to go visit family in another town over the summer the sign you see more than any other, even the speed limit signs, is the one that says “Road work ahead.” As you sit in your car on the freeway you seek consolation in the idea that by next year the work will be finished and you’ll have clear sailing on the road. Deep in your mind, though, you know that while this road work may be finished, there will be another patch of road work two miles down the road.
While the sign “road work ahead” may be one of the signs of summer we need to understand that “road work ahead” was one of the signs that the Messiah was coming. Isaiah prophesied it and Luke repeated that prophecy as he told the story of John the Baptist. As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet: “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. And all people will see God’s salvation.’” (Luke 3:4-6)
In ancient times, if a king were going to travel, people would go ahead of him to make the road passable. If the roads weren’t too bad and his workers actually worked, he might never see them. They would make the pathway clear by filling in the potholes and clearing the way if the road meandered. Valleys would get road bridges made of the dirt, perhaps taken from a path being cut through the mountains. The preparation time would be enormous. John didn’t have that much time, being about six months older than Jesus as I understand the ages. His job was to prepare the people spiritually for the coming Messiah: Jesus. His message was popular among the people, but not so popular among the religious elites. Messiahs tend to be good for the average people in the land, but not so good for the religious and political leaders. John didn’t have time to deal with the politics of a Messiah, his job was to prepare the way for Him by leading people to repent of their sins and get ready for God to work.
We do a lot of preparations for Christmas: shopping, decorating, baking, and making travel arrangements. How easy it is, though, to get lost in those trappings and forget that the reason Jesus came to earth was to die on the cross and bring forgiveness and grace to all people who turn to Him. In all the preparations you are making for the holiday of Christmas, are you doing any road work. Now is a good time to look at your life and see where you need to change. Then, don’t try to change it by yourself, seek God’s grace and mercy to help bring about this change. Let God work in you to make straight paths, fill in the valleys, remove the mountains, and smooth the way. That’s the preparation for Christmas we all need to do.
O Lord, how easy to get caught up in the trappings of the holiday we celebrate and forget about the One who was born to die for us. Help me examine my life. Lord, do the road work on me that needs to be done. Let my life reflect Your love and grace to a world that needs Your hope.