“He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah: ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness. Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. 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; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”
—The Gospel of Luke
The region around the Jordan River isn’t the only wilderness.
Each of us has our own “wilderness” and our own “wilderness moments” in life.
And within us.
Places with fearfully tall mountains that we feel we cannot possibly climb. Or, once they are scaled, that it would be impossible to descend without falling from their great height.
Places with deep, dark valleys of shadows that we fear passing through or feel lost within.
Crooked places that twist us up in knots and where we lose our sense of self and direction in their maze-like zig-zagging.
Rough places that wouldn’t understand the meaning of smooth even if they were surrounded by velvet.
In the passage above, Luke is talking about John the Baptist crying out in the wilderness, preparing the way for Jesus.
But John the Baptist isn’t the only one crying out in the wilderness.
Each of us has had times when we, too, cried out in the wilderness. And we will have them again. That is life.
But there is another voice, too, crying out in our lives.
Another voice in the wilderness crying out around us.
Another voice in the wilderness crying out within us.
And that voice is the Holy Spirit of God and Christ.
That voice is Jesus with us.
God with us.
Oh come, oh come, Emmanuel.
And Emmanuel comes.
Emmanuel is there. Is here.
Emmanuel will find a way to make our paths feel straight even if they remain crooked.
Emmanuel will find a way to make every mountain feel as if it has been made low even if it still rises.
We reach the summit.
And we do not fall off on the way back down the other side on our continuing journey.
Our rough places have been made smoother, even if they are still rough.
And we see, and we feel, the salvation of God.
We feel the salvation of God so strongly that the only response we can think of is to try and make crooked paths feel straight for others, to take their hand as they cross over their mountains, to shine a light as we travel through their dark valleys with them.
To be a voice of love and compassion in their wilderness.
And a voice of love and compassion when their wilderness is gone and there is nothing left at all but Emmanuel.
Emmanuel all around. In every footprint and every heartbeat.