Second Sunday of Advent
DECEMBER 9, 2018
The Way of HOPE
Sunday Scripture Reading: Luke 3:1–6
Introduction
If you have ever driven a rocky, one-lane mountain road, you can understand the desire for straight
paths. On your right is a sharp dropoff and on your left sheer rock. If another car comes around
the bend at the last second, one of you must creatively and meticulously pull halfway over onto the
tiny shoulder. If you don’t see each other in time, disaster could strike. This kind of road is especially
fear-inducing for people who are only familiar with straight paths. If you grew up in an area of the
country that is flat, or in a well-lit city, imagine the fear that a dark, winding path could inspire.
In the context of Scripture, there weren’t any cars driving up winding mountain roads, but not being
able to see could still put you in harm’s way. Thieves or wildlife could be around a bend, with the
potential to cause you physical harm or leave you without resources. Mountains make walking more
difficult. Have you ever climbed up a mountain or gone hiking in the hills? The change in elevation
can make make anyone’s journey tough, not to mention the difficulty of keeping your footing on a
rough, rocky trail.
The danger and difficulty of craggy, curvy mountain paths are something the listeners to the words
in Isaiah would have related to, but this text isn’t talking about literal mountains and valleys; it’s talking
about preparing the way for the Lord so that people might see, hear, and know the way of hope
that the Lord offers to all who believe.
Body
1. Prophets speak truth to power, and John is a prophet.
a. Luke starts out this chapter with a listing of the rulers of the day. He lists both the political leaders
of Rome, the ruling empire, and the religious leaders of the Jewish people.
i. This list alludes first to the original context of the Isaiah passage being quoted, which
was spoken to a people in exile. And it was spoken that they might have hope that the
Messiah would one day come to free them; that they would know that, though they were
in a different land, God still heard their cries.
ii. Though the New Testament Jews are not in exile, they are an oppressed people. They are
still in a wilderness place, crying out for God to save them from their oppressors. They
are in need of saving.
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iii. These political and religious rulers are listed seemingly as a contrast to the coming of
the true King, the Messiah who will reorder things. Jesus does not come in through the
vein of politics or religious celebrity; rather, he comes to the world as a humble servant,
declaring life and salvation for all.
b. John is speaking a truth that counters the systems of the day.
i. He is not declaring Caesar as Lord. This is significant during Roman rule, when people are
commanded to declare Caesar not only as the ruler of Rome but also as a god.
ii. John is not speaking of following religious law, making sacrifices and following rules the
way they have done in the past.
iii. John is declaring baptism and repentance; a reordering of what they have known. This is
completely different from the current systems. It is a radical and countercultural call that
urges people to think differently.
c. This baptizing and call for repentance is preparing the way of the Lord, preparing hearts to hear
the good news of Jesus, the Christ.
2. During Advent, we also need to make straight paths for the way of the Lord.
a. We can list the rulers of our day—both political and religious—who often take up too much space
in our hearts.
i. The systems of the world are often in direct opposition to the kingdom of God.
ii. The Messiah wants to reorder these systems in our hearts and lives.
b. The call to live counterculturally hasn’t changed.
i. The political leaders in our world are not Lord either. We must be careful about declaring
them such, whether by our words or our actions.
1. While we don’t have a caesar who will throw us to the lions, our traps can be even more
insidious because they seem good.
2. It’s easy to place our hope in political systems or politicians, and while they can do good,
and we can hope and work for good, it is important to recognize that our hope is not in
them.
3. The kingdom we serve is not of this world. It is the kingdom of God. A kingdom where all is
made right. It is our hope and desire to long for this already/not-yet kingdom.
ii. We aren’t called to religious legalism. Legalism can often become easier and more attractive
than repentance and grace, but we are called to the messy work of love and grace.
1. Setting up more rules for ourselves and others to follow in order to please God misses the
intent of Scripture. Instead of drawing us closer into relationship with Jesus, this practice
can induce shame at our inability to achieve impossible standards.
2. While the Jews were looking for the rebuilding of the temple to be their hope, we often
look for the best church with the perfect pastor or just the right music, missing that
maybe there is more to being in relationship with God and others than that.
3. The work of Christ is the pouring out of oneself and the loving of others. Turning away
from the way things have always been done and looking at the world with a new lens of
love, grace, and hope.
iii. We too are called to repent and to think differently.
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