Prepare the way of the Lord

What was it like 2000 years ago trying to build smooth roads and straight paths through rough wilderness ground? Hard enough to maintain local paths, but if you were a Roman Emperor needing good roads to keep an empire under control, then every obstacle in the way had to be dealt with.

The Palestine province of the Roman empire had some rocky hilly places where roads were needed for armies on the march and for traders to travel. A lot of shovels and a lot of hard work by thousands was required to maintain the ancient routes and build new ones. How many slaves or forced labourers died in the process I wonder?

When roads are built now, there's a lot of work, but bulldozers and huge earth moving machinery can make a big impression in short time.

On the 2nd Sunday of Advent the church prepares for the coming of Christ by remembering the message of John the Baptist. I think he was a bit of a human bulldozer. By that I mean that he made an unforgettable impression in a short time, not because he was anybody important, but because God used him to deliver a powerful message about the need to repent and turn back to God. And some did, but others found John the Baptist's message a threat to their grip on power, so in the end it cost John the Baptist his life.

Here is some of what will be read from Luke's gospel today:

The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:

'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.'
I can never read those words without thinking of the way Handel set them to music in his oratorio The Messiah, so here's a little taste of that:

We're not all bulldozers like John the Baptist. If God hands you a shovel to help build a road or a world fit for him to use, what will you do with it? What none of us can do is to put right all that is wrong in the world. What we can do is to prepare for the coming reign of Christ, one shovel load at a time, one prayer or small action at a time.

While I was thinking about this, I remembered this prayer for the world:
O God, our Heavenly Father,
give us a vision of our world as your love would make it:
a world where the weak are protected
and none go hungry or poor;
a world where the benefits of civilised life are shared,
and everyone can enjoy them;
a world where different races, nations and cultures
live in tolerance and mutual respect;
a world where peace is built with justice,
and justice is guided by love;
and give us the inspiration and courage to build it,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

St Martin-in-the-Fields prayer for the world

Image Credit: Bulldozer:  Wikimedia, CC License