In our gospel lesson for the fourth Sunday of Advent, John is preparing the way, calling “Make straight the way of the Lord!” Already next week is Christmas, the day we remember the amazing love of God, that He would consent to be born a human being, out of His great love for us. What a crazy idea! This is the same God that came down in fire and smoke on Horeb – a sight and sound so terrifying that the Israelites begged not to have to see or hear it anymore, but to have a prophet speak to them instead. It is beyond our comprehension that God would come down into our humanity to suffer and die for us; that He loves us that much even though we don’t deserve it. Though we cannot understand such great love, we can rejoice in it nonetheless, and extend the same gentleness to those around us. The Lord is near!
The Old Testament lesson is from the book of Deuteronomy, chapter 18, verses 15-19:
“The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen— just as you desired of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.’ And the Lord said to me, ‘They are right in what they have spoken. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him.
The Epistle lesson is from Philippians, chapter 4, verses 4-7:
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
The Gospel for the Fourth Sunday of Advent is from John, chapter 1, verses 19-28:
And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?”
He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.”
And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?”
He said, “I am not.”
“Are you the Prophet?”
And he answered, “No.”
So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”
He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”
(Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.) They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?”
John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.