By Chuck Alley

A Reading from the Gospel of Luke 3:1-9 

1 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, 2during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, 4as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah,
“The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
;Prepare the way of the Lord,
   make his paths straight.
5 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;
6 and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”

7 John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. 9Even now the axe is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” 

Meditation

The Jewish Messiah was to be the manner in which the blessing that came to the descendants of Abraham would bless the nations (Gen. 12:3). As the angels announced to the shepherds at Jesus’ birth, this is “good news of great joy that will be for all people” (Luke 2:10). The news of the coming of God’s Messiah is so powerful that all of creation, both the physical creation and the hearts of people, will be transformed by receiving him. According to the prophet, mountains and hills will be leveled, the valleys filled up, the winding roads made straight, and the rough places smoothed out. The rest of the gospel will be the account of the transformation of human hearts, not just in first century Palestine, but throughout history, including today.

If we are to truly receive Jesus as God would have us receive him, then we must give up our self-centered ways, and the crooked path we have taken must be exchanged for the straight path of Jesus. Our rough road of sporadic obedience to God must be transformed into a consistent highway of adherence to God’s will in all things. The mountains of our pride and false humility and the valleys of our self-indulgent despair must be leveled to the balanced altitude of humble recognition of who we are relative to God and whom God has made us to be as his children. The good news is that as God sent John to the world to prepare it for the coming of Jesus, God has sent his Spirit to prepare us to receive Jesus in our lives.

Chuck Alley is a retired Episcopal priest and an adjunct associate professor of anatomy on the medical faculty of Virginia Commonwealth University. He and his wife, Scottie, have three children and nine grandchildren.

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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer

Today we pray for:

Diocese of Quebec and the Rt. Rev. Bruce Myers
Diocese of Coventry (England) and the Rt. Rev. Christopher Cocksworth
Diocese of Krishna-Godavari (South India) and the Rt. Rev. George Cornelious Tantepudi
Diocese of Long Island and the Rt. Rev. Lawrence C. Provenzano