O Lord Jesus Christ, who at your first coming did send your messenger to prepare your way before you; Grant that the ministers and stewards of your mysteries may likewise so prepare and make ready your way, by turning the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, that at your second coming to judge the world we may be found an acceptable people in your sight, who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit forever, one God, world without end. Amen.
Read Isaiah 35, especially these words: a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Way of Holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it. It shall belong to those who walk on the way; even if they are fools, they shall not go astray.
Read Matthew 11:2-10, especially these verses: What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is he of whom it is written, “‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you.’
On this third Sunday in Advent we are given the testimony of St. John the Baptist. He had the unique ministry of preparing God’s people for the first arrival of Christ in the flesh. Even then, the images of judgment were prominent. Isaiah 35 is one of the many Old Testament prophecies that John drew from as he described the Savior who was to come. The language of deserts becoming gardens and mountains and valleys being leveled into a highway are vivid images to this day, showing us how seriously we must take the return of Christ. Additionally, we are here reminded that Christian ministry has a critical component of remembering and proclaiming the mystery of faith: that Christ has died, Christ is risen, and Christ will come again. Along with that proclamation, therefore, we are to help one another to prepare for Christ’s return, so that we will be found acceptable and ready and waiting for him. For many people, the return of Christ to judge and rule the world isn’t even on their radar screens. Is it part of your active faith and proclamation of the Gospel?
Close with the Collect for Advent
Almighty God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.