The Heralding Voice
As 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.’ ”
We are no strangers to heralding voices. Every hour seems to pour forth a steady stream of polls, statistics, trending tweets, predictions, sales pitches, and newsfeeds. We hear so many announcements in the public square today that even the stuff called “breaking news” seems commonplace, ordinary.
It wasn’t always so. Once, “in the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee … during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiphas,” a particular people were itching for news—and not the local kind. The prophets of the Jewish people had gone silent for centuries; God’s voice was a distant memory. But at a very particular time, in a very particular place, an odd herald pierced the prophetic wilderness with big news. Someone was coming. Everything would change.
The word “news” originated in the late middle ages, and is a shortening of the phrase “new things.” Something is “news”—a new thing—if it hasn’t happened before, and is sure to change what will happen in the days to come. When “the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness,” John faithfully heralded the news, preaching repentance and baptizing the people in preparation for the One whose game-changing entrance was drawing near.
In ancient days, a king or ruler employed a herald as his advance man or ambassador. The herald went before the honored official to get things ready for his arrival, fixing the “potholes” as it were, making sure that nothing would stand in the way of the king’s agenda. The coming of the herald was the surest sign that the king was on his way.
Our King has come, and is coming again. Each day offers us a new opportunity to confess, repent, and re-orient our hearts in his direction. We enter the season of Advent with this dual coming ever before us: we celebrate his first entrance, and look ahead to the day when “every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”
FOR FURTHER REFLECTION:
Have you become numb to the “news” of our culture? What would you define as “news”? How would the news of Jesus’ arrival be received by you today?
Almighty God, we listen eagerly for the heralding voice announcing our King is near. Tune our hearts to yours, prepare us as we celebrate your first coming and eagerly await your second. In Jesus’ precious and powerful name, Amen.
READ THE PASSAGE IN CONTEXT:
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene—during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet:
“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.
Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill made low.
The crooked roads shall become straight,
the rough ways smooth.
And all people will see God’s salvation.’ ”