In the time of Jesus pilgrims from Galilee came up to Jerusalem a number of ways. Many came down the Jordan Valley, a journey of 90 miles. When they reached the city of Jericho they turned eastward onto a steep, winding road that ascended for 3500 feet and 15 miles to the city of Jerusalem. A picture taken from an airplane in the 1930s shows that winding, climbing road through the desert. It had to be the hardest part of their journey.
Now travelers go that route in air-conditioned buses. It took ancient travelers four days. Not it’s a few hours.
The bible sees the journey to Jerusalem, especially the last part up that steep winding desert road as a symbol of our journey to God. We’re pilgrims on our way, The way’s still hard, even with air-conditioned buses.
John the Baptist preached where that winding, climbing road began. His father, Zachariah, a priest in the temple in Jerusalem, told him at his birth: “You, my child shall be called a prophet of the most high, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way.” (Luke 1)
John invited weary pilgrims into the refreshing waters of the Jordan river, that they might be strengthened for the journey.
Last week readings warned about falling asleep through complacency and laziness. This week readings remind us the day by day journey can tire us, Life can wear us out, even a life doing good.
Then, unexpected things, like sickness, failures and disappointments, come along, robbing our energy. The parable of the Good Samaritan happened on this road to Jerusalem. Unexpected things happen.
John the Baptist, and the Prophet Isaiah before him, spoke to weary pilgrims. “‘Comfort, give comfort to my people,’ says the Lord…They spoke words of hope to those on the way:
With God’s help, the winding, climbing, wearying road becomes a highway; every valley filled in, every mountain and hill made low, the rugged land made plain, the crooked way straight.
The Lord is ” a shepherd feeding his flock, in his arms he gathers the lambs, carrying them in his bosom and leading the ewes with care.” (Isaiah 40: 1-5,9-11) So don’t be afraid.
Advent is a beautiful season. “Go up with joy to the house of the Lord.”