Luke 3:1-6 Sermon
Are we ready for the King?
If the Queen were to announce that she was going to visit the Itchen Valley, there is no doubt there would be a huge amount of preparation.
It is said that she only ever sees fresh paint because every where she goes has been specially prepared for her visit.
It is a reflection on her importance to us that we would prepare to show ourselves off, the best we can in her presence.
In rather the same way, you may have read that Lucy and I have a wedding to prepare for in our family. Claudia is to be married to Thomas Dean, a very talented musician and worship leader. They want to get married in Edinburgh, which is where they live. But organising a wedding there from here is not easy. So much to do.
But the date will come in July, when the bride will arrive and we need to be ready!
Are we ready for the King? Are you, am I?
If we think of the arrival of our wonderful constitutional monarch, then there are organisational things which need to be sorted out: we need to get our suits out of the cupboard, we need to dust down our local monuments, give a lick of paint where it is needed.
Or if we think of the arrival of a bride – we have to get the venue ready, the clothes purchased or hired, the caterers lined up.
But this is as nothing. Mere surface. Just a glimpse of the preparation that we have to make for the arrival of the king of kings.
The one who can see into our hearts. The one who can evaluate
who we have been and who we are. Not who we appear to others to be.
Our real selves. Our character.
To some extent, the arrival of a bride or of our wonderful constitutional Queen is a wholly impotent metaphor to describe the arrival of the King of Kings.
And I have been searching for another more appropriate one.
A metaphor which gives true weight to the excitement which should spark in our chests as we think of His arrival.
Because putting out the bunting and a lick of paint or getting the village hall organised for a wedding reception does not quite tell us what is going on here in this passage from Luke.
So here is another metaphor. Its not perfect,for reasons which will become obvious.
One might imagine two French families in Normandy in the Spring of 1944.
They know that the Allies are going to invade. Some day.
But in one house, this is something spoken of with excitement, under whispered breath, between a couple frightened, that even mentioning their hopes in front of their own children,will arouse suspicion; might lead to arrest, detention or worse.
The thought that finally, when the Allies come their suffering will be over.
Finally, justice will prevail. Finally, those in authority will be pulled down, and finally, those in subjugation will be lifted up.
But, in the other household, the arrival of the Allies is viewed with horror.
Because the first household are supporters of the Free French and the other household are collaborators with the Nazis.
Everything each family has done since the Fall of France in 1940 is going to come home to roost when the Allies arrive.
A complete reversal of the situation. Every act of bravery, every act of cowardice, every lie told to the occupiers, every secret kept from them.
All will be revealed.
What a wonderful prospect for one household, what a terrifying prospect for the other!
As probably all those of my generation and earlier know, the BBC as its signature for encrypted broadcasts into Occupied France used to play a recording of the four opening notes of Beethoven’s fifth on a timpani drum: Da Da Da Dum – also in morse code the V for Victory. These notes preceded every encrypted transmission to the Resistance. (You can hear this signal at http://www.intervalsignals.net/Files/ukg-z-bbces_vis_c1940.m3u).
One can easily imagine, the excitement of the wireless operators as they get out their code books to decipher the coded message. Is it now finally that the Allies will make their move? Is it now that the nightmare will be over?
Or do those notes fill the hearer with dread?
How do we feel when the word ‘Jesus’ is said on the radio?
Do we turn up the sound or change the channel?
Da da da dum…..
because the King is coming.
And when the King comes, what will happen? Let me tell you, John is saying:
“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”
In the Ancient Near East there were few roads, and if they did exist, they were often in a bad state. When a sovereign was about to visit his dominions, or if the march of an army had to be arranged for, the roads required considerable preparation.
The ancient Jewish historian Josephus describes the advance of the Emperor Vespasian’s army, mentions how the Roman pioneers in the vanguard of the army had to make the road even and straight, and, if it were anywhere rough and hard to be passed over, to plane it.
The valleys needed to be filled and the mountains and hills made low.
For the arrival of the King.
Those for whom the way the world is, is just perfect, need to show some humility before their God in relation to their neighbours, those for whom the world is tough and difficult, need to be lifted up and encouraged, as we all prepare for the arrival of the King.
And he is coming soon.
Are we ready?
Are we a resistance fighter, bravely standing for Christ in a world which has turned against Him? Even though we are ridiculed for doing so?
Are we thrilled by the sounds of the bars on the radio when something of Christ gets through on the airwaves?
Or are we are collaborator with the way that the world is,
reflecting in our every day decisions and attitudes, not the ideas of Christ, but allowing the ideas and values of the world to be reflected in our behaviour and in what we say, so that we are indistinguishable from everyone else?
Advent is the time to get ready, for the arrival of the King.
And mercifully, unlike the arrival of the Allies on the beaches of Normandy, (and this is where the metaphor totally breaks down) there is something that we collaborators with the world can do, to get ready for the King, to prepare for his arrival.
Because whatever we have done, without limit, however much we have compromised with the world and its values, however much we have rejected the King in the past, there is something we can do to get ready, so that we are thrilled by the prospect of his arrival!
What incredibly good news that there is something we can do!
To get ready.
What can we do?
We can choose to repent, we can choose to turn back to Christ, we can choose to have our sins, our collaboration with the enemy, totally forgiven. Wiped clean. As if it never happened.
Not just on the surface, as we might get ready for Queen Elizabeth,
but deep down, in our hearts. A total change. So that we no longer shudder
at the drum beat of his approach but that we are thrilled by the prospect of his arrival.
It’s not too late.
Now, in Advent, is the time to change our hearts towards Him.