Isaiah 40:4: Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain.
I don’t know if you like to drive around here. I know I don’t like to drive in the first place, and putting up with some of the worst traffic in the country is not high on my “not fun” list, which I keep religiously. There are some other things on my “not fun” list, but I don’t want to think about them right now.
Anyhow, not only do we have some of the worst traffic around, we have to put up with road maintenance. Now, I understand that without this we’d all be driving on corduroy roads or through mudholes, and the traffic would be even worse, if that’s possible, but it seems that localities in their so-called wisdom choose the worst possible times and places to work on the roads, like during rush hour or right before a holiday. It’s enough to make anyone think about saying some bad words, although I’m sure none of us in this group does. I’m sure.
If you’ve come by the church in the last three weeks or so, you know that crews have been working on Stonewall Road, narrowing the lanes and leaving unsightly asphalt patches that threaten my poor little car’s sports suspension. It’s a delicate beast, and I’m sue such treatment will shorten its life. This has been a pain to so many people.
I know that eventually (i.e., sometime this century) any given patched road will be repaved, and then all the suffering and turmoil will be forgotten. I was on a section of newly-paved road this morning, and it was smooth and beautiful. I wanted to get out of the car and kiss the asphalt, but I didn’t. I have my reputation to think of.
I couldn’t help but think of the passage from Isaiah as I drove along, happy and worry free. It doesn’t take much to make me do that. Something like dark chocolate also works well, if you’ve been wondering what to get me for my upcoming birthday.
Anyhow, the smoothing of the coming of the Lord in the Scripture refers to the practice at the time of kings making what was called a “royal progress” around their kingdom. [This practice continued at least through Elizabethan times, and involved the queen and her court (which had the same number of people as a Presidential candidate, his or her staff, the press corps and assorted hangers on)] descending on some put-upon noble and his household and devouring everything in sight and taking all the best bedrooms. It was at that a mixed blessing, an honor to be so visited, but it cost a queen’s ransom to pay for everything. For ancient monarchs, the hills would be leveled, the rough places smooth and the valleys filled in (or exalted, which sounds so much more sophisticated).
That sort of treatment has continued today. My father was Supervisor of Structural Maintenance for Fairfax County Public Schools, and that entailed a number of interesting and unusual projects. I think the most unusual came when then President Jimmy Carter came to Fairfax High School in the early 80’s. My father was tasked with having his crews make a graveled path from the football field, where the Marine One chopper landed, all the way up to the school, a distance of about five hundred yards. My dad, a life-long ardent Republican (my mother said he would have voted for a dog had the Republicans put one on the ballot), groused about having to take his men away from their jobs on the schools, but he had it done, of course. We gave him a hard time for years about doing something like that for a Democrat, but he never changed his opinion about doing it.
It occurred to me that, just as the way was prepared for those Old Testament kings (and some modern leaders) and as we enjoy a freshly paved road, we ought to be preparing a way for the Lord this Christmas season in our hearts, not with asphalt and stone, but with prayer, Bible study, service and love for the children of God. We could do much worse than that. Amen.