Advent Reflections: Roadwork in Advent

By David Clark
David A. R. Clark


The Rev. David Clark is a fourth-year PhD Candidate. His research focuses on Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s interpretation of the Old Testament during the Nazi period, including the implications for post-Holocaust Jewish-Christian relations.


Passage for reflection: Luke 3: 1 - 6

The Proclamation of John the Baptist
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, [2] during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. [3] He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, [4] 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.
[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.’”



Roadwork in Advent

When I served as a minister in North Bay, Highway 11 was being expanded and rebuilt. Driving south to Toronto, I saw the new highway in different stages of preparation. In some places, workers were building up new overpasses and bridges, and in other places they were blasting out rocks: building up and breaking down, “valleys filled” and “mountains made low.” In some places, workers were laying new sod alongside the highway, and in other places they were ripping up trees: creating the new and clearing out the old, “crooked ways made straight” and “rough ways made smooth.”

John the Baptist, always an intrusive presence in Advent, seizes our attention and redirects us to the work of repentance. John came “proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins,” and this image of roadwork gives us a hint of what repentance can look like: repentance is intense, involved, uncomfortable, but all for the sake of a new, more faithful beginning. In our neighbourhoods, in our communities, in our churches, in our families, and in ourselves, may the roots of hatred be ripped up and the sod of kindness planted; may the rocks of resentment be blasted out, and the bridges of reconciliation built one stone at a time. And may this spiritual roadwork signal for us a new beginning, in Christ.

You are the God of new beginnings:
we thank you for the grace
that you offer us a fresh start
in Jesus Christ,
the coming Saviour,
whose arrival makes reconciliation happen,
whose birth makes transformation possible,
whose life and death and new life
mean that we are defined no longer
by our past brokenness.


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