The Second Sunday of Advent. “Crooked!” Luke 3:1-18 Sermon by Rev. Dr. Rolf Svanoe
John the Baptist! What a strange character living in the wilderness. John was a prophet with an uncompromising message. People felt uncomfortable around him because he called out their sins and called them to a lifestyle of repentance and integrity. What would John the Baptist say if he were here today? If he were spending time in our world today, what would he want to tell us? That got me thinking. I’m going to pretend to be John the Baptist, and I’m going to put on my John the Baptist hat. I want you to pretend with me that I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness of Harmony, Minnesota.
Prepare the way of the Lord. Make His paths straight. Straight, I tell you. Straight, because right now those paths into your heart are really crooked. Crooked! We are all really good at making the paths in our hearts crooked. You know what I mean by crooked don’t you? When we call someone a crook, we mean they are crooked. They are liars or cheats. They are hypocrites who say one thing and then do another. Crooks are people who pretend to be something that they aren’t. They are fake, phony, disingenuous.
You might say, “Wait a minute. I’m not a crook. I don’t steal or cheat.” That may be true, but none of us gets off easy. Are there lies you’ve been living, things you would just as soon others didn’t know about you? Are there things you’ve done in the past you don’t want others to find out? Are there things you try to hide from others or even from God? Oh, the pathways into our heart can get so twisted and crooked that we even lose ourselves and lose our way in life.
That’s where I come in. Me, John the Baptist. “Prepare the way of the Lord. Make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” God is here today. Right now. In this very moment, God stands before you and wants to do some major highway construction in your heart.
When faced with a hard truth, no one ever says, “Give it to me crooked.” No, we say, “Give it to me straight.” We want an honest answer, direct and forthright. Don’t beat around the bush, just give it to me straight. So, let me give it to you straight. We are all sinners. And we are all really good at sinning and making those pathways into our hearts crooked. But there’s one thing that can make the crooked straight- the love of God. And this is the good news that God loves sinners. It’s the best news in the whole world.
If we are going to prepare the way of the Lord, we need to be straight with God. We need to pray like this- “Okay, Lord. I’m going to give it to you straight. I’m a sinner. I’ve been crooked. I’ve been dishonest with others and dishonest with you. The way to my heart is full of twists and turns. There are so many things I would rather hide from you. I’m just afraid that if you knew who I really was, you wouldn’t love me. I don’t deserve your love. I don’t deserve your forgiveness. I am a sinner in need of your grace. Amen.” Do you know what that prayer is? That prayer is like a super-highway for God. And God can do some amazing things in our hearts. Take it from me- John the Baptist.
God loves us and wants free access to our hearts. This is the most amazing news in the whole universe. This God who came to us 2,000 years ago, wants to come again today and make his home in our hearts. God came to us in Jesus announcing the forgiveness of sins. That is the good news we proclaim. That good news creates a highway straight into our hearts. It is really the best way to prepare for Christmas. And the promise of God is that “all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” Joy and peace fill our hearts, and we are made new.