Jesus Our Shepherd
Luke 3:1-6
2nd Sunday of Advent

In the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, Philip his brother tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene. In those days during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiphas, the Word of God came to John, begot of Zechariah, in the desert. John went through the entire region of the Jordan proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as is written in the words of Isaiah the prophet:

“A herald’s voice in the desert crying ‘Make ready the way of our God; clear a straight path. Every valley will be filled, and every mountain and hill will be leveled. The twisted paths will be made straight, and the rough roads smooth, and all humankind will see the salvation of God.’”

Homily for 07 December 2003
Rev. Bob Scanlan

One of the most difficult things I have to do is wait; in the check out line; in traffic; for almost anything. However this is the time of year we are in a waiting mode. For some of us it may be waiting for the first good snow for skiing or snow machine driving in the country; or Yes even for the Packers to win the division! When we strip away these frivolous items from our list we find that we are waiting for the birth of the Son of God within us.

St. Paul, in his letter to the Phillipians has this prayer: “That the One who began the good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus”. During the Ordination Rite, the ordaining Bishop prays this prayer over the one being ordained. Today this also is my prayer for each person in this community. It is that very God that began the good work in the people of the city of Phillipi that also began the good work in each of us. It is the same God who urges us to be vigilant in waiting for this good to come to fruition within this community. Paul was so proud of that community. This community was given a similar challenge: be passive in your waiting or be active in your waiting. You chose being active and re-establishing your community after it’s near destruction.

St. Paul also includes another prayer in his letter to the Phillipians: “That your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception to discern what is of value”.

I feel that is one of the aspects of advent waiting: to grow in love, to be able to increase your knowledge and perception and to discern what is of value.

The passage we hear today from the Gospel of Luke is both old and new; one we have heard many times before and at the same time has new meaning for us as for some of us our life’s experiences have changed since the last time we heard this proclaimed. This is actually a continuation of the first reading from the Prophet Baruch where he proclaims: “For God has commanded that every lofty mountain be made low and that age old depths and gorges be filled to level ground”.

Luke is careful to list all the important people of the time; those in power at that time: Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate, Herod, Lysanias, Annas and Caiphas. The Word of God did not come to them. The Word of God came to John in “the desert”. Often times it is in the desert experiences of our life that the Word of God speaks to each of us. Everyone here this morning has had those desert experiences in our life.

Jean was born in Washington D.C. When our children were young we drove for some of our summer vacations to Ocean City, Maryland where all her sisters and their families gathered for a week of fun in the sun. We would drive through the Allegheny Mountains and I would always remark how hard it must have been for the early settlers to travel through those mountains where there were neither roads nor maps to follow. This summer we flew over the Grand Canyon in a helicopter. To be a literalist one askes how can the mountains be made low and the valleys filled to level ground? This is obviously impossible from the human standpoint.

Knocking down the mountains that are in our way of becoming a whole, healthy, and faith-filled person can at times seem impossible!

Filling in the valleys that seem so deep and empty can at times seem impossible!

Making the winding roads of our personal journey straight so we can see where we are headed at times seems impossible!

Making all the rough ways smooth so the, at times jarring road we all travel, is made easier at times seems almost impossible!

If you have had the opportunity to spend some time in the desert, you know that the sand dunes are always shifting. The wind blows where it will constantly changing the sand dunes: we use the terms the “shifting sands” Where there was once a smooth road may now be a sand dune blocking a smooth passage. Isn’t that the way it is in life?

Just when we seem to have “it figured out” there is yet another twist, another mountain, another valley: whether it be a marriage that is in trouble; a family member becoming addicted to drugs (parents, and children alike), an unwed daughter telling her parents she is pregnant, a son telling his parents that his girl friend is pregnant and he is the father of this child; elderly parents in need of long term health care – more than the family can handle.

Life is spent waiting for the answers to all these questions and many more. How does one cross these mountains and fill these valleys; make the rough ways smooth and straighten the winding roads?

I believe it is only through the presence of Jesus and His Spirit in our life that this is possible. I believe also that it is in the comunity wisdom and strength that we all travel these roads together for no one is alone on this journey. That is the strength of this community of love and service.

We wait and watch together. We laugh and we cry together. You may have an answer for me and I may be able to help you. Together the good work begun in each of us will be brought to completion in the day of Christ Jesus.