THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT: Making Preparations

Prepare the Way, O Zion[1]

The season of Advent calls us to both anticipation and preparation. The Old Testament has many hints and promises of the Messiah to come, so we feel with ancient Israel the anticipation of Messiah’s coming. It’s like the excitement we feel looking forward to an upcoming special event, or the arrival of someone important to us. We unite our hearts with ancient Israel in their longing and hoping for Messiah’s arrival. But preparation? How do we do that? What do we do?

Prepare the way, O Zion, your Christ is drawing near!
Let every hill and valley a level way appear.
Greet One who comes in glory, foretold in sacred story.
O blest is Christ who came in God’s most holy name.

Frans Mikael Franzen, in this Advent hymn Prepare the Way, O Zion, calls on “Zion,” the people of God, to give attention to preparation for the coming of Messiah. He echoes the words of Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, as she praised God for her son and the mission God had for him.

And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways . . . (Luke 1:76 NRSV)

Both Elizabeth and Franzen bring to mind the prophecy of Isaiah 40:3-5:

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. Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken. (NRSV)

In ancient times, preparation for the arrival of royalty would include people going ahead of the royal procession to prepare the road that would be traveled – removing obstacles and filling holes in the road to make the way “straight” and smooth. It was to this kind of “preparation ministry” that John the Baptist was called – to remove false ideas about what made people right with God, and to issue a call to repentance and preparation of the heart for the coming of Messiah. This was important because the Messiah Israel was to prepare for was not who they thought he would be.

He brings God’s rule, O Zion; he comes from heaven above.
His rule is peace and freedom, and justice, truth, and love.
Lift high your praise resounding, for grace and joy abounding.
O blest is Christ who came in God’s most holy name.

Israel was anticipating Messiah to be their king and deliverer. That’s what the prophets seemed to say.

The LORD has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all. (Psalm 103:19 NRSV)

Thus says the LORD the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One, to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nations, the slave of rulers, “Kings shall see and stand up, princes, and they shall prostrate themselves, because of the LORD, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.” (Isaiah 49:7 NRSV)

But Messiah’s kingdom was not to be a political kingdom – not a kingdom of this world. Messiah would be bringing heaven’s kingdom values to bear on earth. As Franzen wrote: “His rule is peace and freedom, and justice, truth, and love.”  God’s kingdom is built on the foundation of truth and justice. It operates on the principle of love, and it offers peace and freedom to all who will receive it. It was to prepare the hearts of Israel for this King and kingdom that John was called. And it is to prepare our hearts for, and to make known to those with whom we have influence, this King and kingdom, that we are called.

Fling wide your gates, O Zion; your Savior’s rule embrace,
And tidings of salvation proclaim in every place.
All lands will bow rejoicing, their adoration voicing.
O blest is Christ who came in God’s most holy name.

Is there any better message to give to a troubled world – to our family, friends, and acquaintances – than the announcement that the true King of this world brings peace, freedom, justice, truth . . . and that He loves them very much? Is there any more important choice to make than to receive this King and His rule into your own life?

Prepare the way! Your Savior’s rule embrace! Tidings of salvation proclaim in every place!

O blest is Christ who came in God’s most holy name!

Follow this link – https://youtu.be/yZDqBt7qqsg – to enjoy a performance of this hymn.

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Rusty Rabon also hosts a Zoom book reading program called READING GREAT BOOKS five nights each week (Thursdays through Mondays). The Zoom link and current book information are available here on The Fellowship of Ailbe website. Rusty has written two collections of devotional meditations – on for Lent titled “Do All to the Glory of God” and the other for Advent titled “Lift Up Your Voice and Sing.”  Click here to purchase one of these books. You can follow Rusty Rabon at www.rustyrabon.com, on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/rusty.raabon.9/, and on Twitter at https://mobile.twitter.com/RustyRabon.


[1] TEXT: Frans Mikael Franzen (1812, revised 1819); translated Augustus Nelson, 1958, adapted by Charles P. Price, 1980. Copyright Hope Publishing Company, Carol Stream, IL, 60188. MUSIC: Bereden Vag For Herran with refrain. The Swenska Psalmboken, 1697. https://youtu.be/yZDqBt7qqsg

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Filed under Advent, God the King, Hope, Hymn devotional, Incarnation of Christ, Praise

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