Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Make straight the way of the Lord

John the Baptist quotes from Isaiah 40 in his declaration in John 1:21, “Make straight the way of the Lord.” There is much in our world that is crooked. It is full of injustice, violence and fear. There is much that needs straightening. Our world is a wasteland; a desert, a wilderness. We can become overwhelmed by despair when we think of the condition of our world. We need a straight path to find our way through the wilderness.

We often feel as hopeless as the Children of Israel in Babylonian captivity. How we need to hear the words, “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.” Yet, if we are to believe the Good News of the New Testament, our “hard service has [already] been completed, [our] sin has been paid for.”

Mary proclaims in Luke 1:52, “ He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.” This echoes Isaiah 4: 4, “Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain.” In Jesus’ kingdom, things have been turned around. What our culture counts as high is really low. What our culture sees as rugged is now plain.

Mary continues, “He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.” Isaiah says in verse 11, “He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart.” In Jesus’ kingdom, the poor and the disenfranchised are close to his heart. It is the powerful and the rich, through their oppressive systems of inequality, who cause most of the fear in our world. When we enter God’s fold, we are held close to Jesus’ heart.

“My soul glorifies the Lord,” declares Mary, “and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,” while Isaiah states, “And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together.” That the world has been turned upside down is cause for rejoicing and worship. The glory of the Lord has been revealed through his kingdom. The world is about to turn!*

My soul cries out with a joyful shout that the God of my heart is great,
And my spirit sings of the wondrous things that you bring to the ones who wait.
You fixed your sight on your servant's plight, and my weakness you did not spurn,
So from east to west shall my name be blest, Could the world be about to turn?

Though I am small, my God, my all, you work great things in me,
And your mercy will last from the depths of the past to the end of the age to be.
Your very name puts the proud to shame, and to those who would for you yearn,
You will show your might, put the strong to flight, for the world is about to turn.

From the halls of pow'r to the fortress tow'r, not a stone will be left on stone.
Let the king beware for your justice tears ev'ry tyrant from his throne.
The hungry poor shall weep no more, for the food they can never earn;
There are tables spread, every mouth be fed, for the world is about to turn.

Though the nations rage from age to age, we remember who holds us fast:
God's mercy must deliver us from the conqueror's crushing grasp.
This saving word that our forebears heard is the promise which holds us bound,
Till the spear and rod can be crushed by God, who is turning the world around.

Hope is already here! The Kingdom of God has arrived! A straight path as been carved through the despair of the wilderness! Rejoice where we see God’s “will done on earth as it is in heaven!”

*Words and arrangement of traditional Irish tune by Rory Cooney.

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