THEME: FILL YOUR VALLEY, LEVEL YOUR MOUNTAIN
READINGS: Baruch 5.1-9/ Philippians 1.4-6, 8-11/ Luke 3.1-6
2nd Sunday of Advent
Often in Africa, a visit by a president to a remote village is preceded by the re-grading or up-grading of poor roads. Large pot-holes are filled and hilly portions are levelled. Similarly, when God, the King of kings, was to visit the Jews in exile in Babylon and lead them back to Jerusalem, His people had to prepare His way: “In the desert prepare the way of the Lord. Make straight …a highway for the Lord! Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill shall be made low” (Isaiah 40:3-5). This, however, was not a call to work on the physical highway, but the spiritual road which went through the minds and hearts of God’s people.
This message from Isaiah is quoted in Luke 3:1-6 (the gospel reading) to describe the work of John the Baptist. The Baptist came to prepare his people for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. Beloved, you and I also have to prepare the roads of our lives to meet the Lord, whose birthday we are about to celebrate. The preparation involves filling the valleys in our lives and levelling our mountains. But what are the valleys and mountains in our lives? The Bible helps us to understand the valleys and mountains in our lives.
1.0 THE VALLEY
The physical valley is a fertile ground, a point by which an enemy invades a city or an abode of wild beasts. Let us consider how these points relate to our spiritual valley.
The river that runs through the valley makes it fertile for growing crops. The valley, therefore, signifies material prosperity. Material riches can sometimes obscure our vision of God or dull our devotion to Him. Is the quest for prosperity, consciously or unconsciously, taking me away from God? If yes, then prosperity has become my valley.
POINT OF INVASION
A valley could be the point at which a city is invaded to conquer it. For instance, to defeat the city of Ai, Joshua went through the Jordan valley (Joshua 8) and it was in the Valley of Rephaim that David repeatedly defeated the Philistines (2 Sam 5:17-25). Therefore, the valley could signify our weak-point or weakness. Do we have some weaknesses in our lives? If yes, then these are some of the valleys which need to be filled.
ABODE OF WILD BEASTS
In the Jordan valley, there were bushy places taken over by wild beasts like lions, tigers and wolves. Such places were no-go areas for human beings. Are there places that Christians should not go that I go? These may be my valleys. Secondly, do I have wild tendencies or a temper? These may be my valleys that need to be filled.
In the Bible, a mountain or hill is sometime a place or symbol of heathen sacrifice, the illusion of earthly glory or an obstacle to our goal.
The Bible condemned heathen or pagan sacrifices offered on mountains (Deut. 12:2), or the worship of idols which took place there (1 Kings 14:23; Jer. 2:20). Once again, is idol worship that which I have to deal with in my life as I prepare to celebrate the birthday of the Lord?
ILLUSION OF EARTHLY GLORY
Satan took Jesus to the mountain top to show Him the illusive glory of earth (Matt. 4:8). Thus, a mountain could symbolize illusive earthly glory, fame, wealth or power. Have I been seduced by any of these?
OBSTACLE TO OUR GOAL
As a mountain could prevent one from reaching a goal or prevent one from seeing what is beyond it, so it could signify those things in my life that prevent me from reaching my spiritual goals or obscure my vision of the glory of God. What are some of these things that I have to begin to clear from my life?
Beloved, in this season of Advent and beyond, may the Lord grant us abundant grace to fill every valley in our lives and to level every mountain as well. Amen!
By Very Rev. Fr. John Louis