Once upon a time there was a king, who ruled a prosperous country. One day he went for a trip to some distant areas of his country. When he came back to his palace, he complained that his feet were very sore because it was the first time that he had gone for such a long trip, and the road he had used was very rough and stony. He then ordered his people to cover every road of the country with leather. Definitely this would need skins of thousands of animals, and would cost a huge amount of money. Then one of his wise advisors dared to question the king, “Why do you have to spend that unnecessary amount of money? Why don’t you just cut a little piece of leather to cover your feet?” The king was surprised, but later agreed to his suggestion to make a ‘shoe’ for himself. – We often say, “I wish things would change or people would change.” Instead wise people say: “Change your thinking and change your world.”
The Advent season challenges us to prepare the way for the celebration of Jesus’ first coming by changing ourselves. “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths. Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low.
“Every hill made low,” refers to the humbling of the proud, the repentance that the strong and arrogant must undergo in order to receive God’s salvation.
The “winding roads” and “rough places” refer to the twists and turns of the human heart, contorted by sin (Jer 17:9). The human heart needs to be “simplified” or “straightened” by honest and truthful confession of sin.
Preparing “the way” means to create a favorable environment or to make it easy for someone to come to one and operate in one’s life. If a king were planning to travel, work crews would be dispatched to repair the roads. Ideally, the roads for the king's journey would be straight, level, and smooth. A smooth road means nothing to God, but a repentant heart means a great deal. Hence, the truly important goal for us is to prepare our hearts to receive the Lord.
John's message calls us to confront and confess our sins. We have to turn away from them in sincere repentance and receive God's forgiveness. There are basically two reasons why people who have recognized their sins fail to receive forgiveness for them. The first is that they fail to repent -- but the second is that they fail to forgive. Jesus is very explicit about this in Matthew 6:14 and 15. He says, "For if you forgive men their transgressions, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions." Is there someone I need to forgive today? We must not let what others have done destroy our lives. We can't be forgiven unless we forgive. We must release our bitterness if we are to be able to allow God to do His healing work in our lives. May this advent season help us to shed all the bitterness and revenge so that we may be worthy to receive God’s forgiveness.