A voice cries:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all flesh shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” Isaiah 40:3-5 ESV
The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
As it is written in Isaiah the prophet,
“Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
who will prepare your way,
the voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,’”
John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey. And he preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” Mark 1:1-8 ESV
Trains run best when the railroad tracks are straight and level. When people are laying railroad lines, they will first clear and make the ground as level as possible. They might fill in small depressions in the ground, and they might also level down small humps. They lay the track as straight as possible, but the track will curve around hills and low valleys rather than run up and down. Sometimes a rail line will have to go over a deep valley or gorge, and then the engineers will design a trestle bridge so the train can continue to run as straight and level as possible. Other times there is no good way to go around a hill or a mountain, and that’s when rail engineers will design a tunnel that goes straight through the mountain rather than up and down it. The American Transcontinental Railroad hired many construction crews to build trestle bridges and to dig tunnels through the mountainous areas of the United States. Even when the rails were laid across the flat plains, crews of workers smoothed and leveled the ground as much as possible so they could lay straight, level tracks.
The prophet Isaiah talked about the Lord coming to his people and revealing his glory, and he called out for everyone to make a straight and level path for him. This picture is a lot like the picture of people getting the land ready to lay the tracks for a railroad. The railroad made huge changes in the way of life of the American people. It made travel much quicker and safer, and communication and moving goods between different parts of the country would never be the same. The railroad was huge project, and working to get the railroad ready was important work. Getting ready for God to come to his people was even more important. When the Lord came to his people, everything would change forever, and getting ready for his coming was the work that mattered the most of all.
God came to us in Jesus, and a man named John the Baptist came ahead of Jesus to prepare the way for him. John the Baptist didn’t build straight roads or lay railroad tracks. Instead, John called for the people to repent of their sins and turn to God. He baptized people for the forgiveness of their sins, because no one can come to God unless their sins are forgiven and their lives are level and straight according to God’s law. But no one can get rid of the sin that makes everyone’s life crooked, and that’s why we need God’s forgiveness. Jesus came to do what we couldn’t do for ourselves. He died on the cross to win our forgiveness, and he comes to us in his gift of baptism to make his forgiveness our own. Jesus sends us his Holy Spirit every day to help us repent of our sins and turn to God for forgiveness and help to live life in his way.
Dear Heavenly Father, please forgive our sins and help us always to turn to you for help. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.