Listen for a Word beyond the Voices of Our Time


Luke 3:1-6 (NIV)

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, 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 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 out 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 emperor of the mighty Roman Empire . . . the governor of the conquered country . . . the rulers of the regions . . . the high priests of Jerusalem . . . John. One of these things is not like the others. But note, the word of God did not come to the powerful elite in their palatial wealth. The word of God came to John, the prophet son of a priest, in the trackless wild.

John the Baptist gets a lot more than honorable mention in the days of Advent. This locust-eating, grizzly bear of a man does not conjure up images of chestnuts roasting over an open fire. Out of nowhere comes this towering figure who people can only describe by saying names like Elijah and Isaiah.

He is announcing a baptism of repentance. And repentance isn’t exactly a word we associate with Christmas, but remember, it’s not Christmas yet.

And what, you ask, is a baptism of repentance? Repentance means the realignment of one’s life with what matters most. It’s a breaking away from, a preparing for, and a running toward. It’s the recognition of the mounting holy discontent in the pit of your soul. It’s the awakening of anticipation, the storm before the calm. 

Who hears John the Baptist today? Only the same people who heard him back then and in every age in between: people who are listening for a word beyond the voices of their own time. It’s why the Word of God is so vitally important. All the voices we hear are bound either by our own day and time or the day and time in which they lived. Only the Word of God, which transcends time and space, can carry “the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’” 

I remember the year the Mennonites showed up at our farm. They were different from any people I had ever seen or known, in a good way. They walked to the beat of a different drummer. Why did they come to our farm? They leveled land. They had the finest fleet of John Deere tractors and dirt buckets in the region. They kept them spit-shined too. Gentle, humble, and radiating stability, the Mennonites struck me as a people who were living by a Word beyond the voice of our time. The first thing they would do when they bought a new tractor was remove the radio. It is kind of ironic, though, that this community—who lived out a lifestyle of joy-filled repentance—leveled land.

“‘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.’”

As they leveled land, they leveled life; as they leveled life, the Spirit of God leavened the world around them. 


Our Father in heaven, nearer than my breath, thank you for these days of Advent and this new year in Christ. Thank you for the land-leveling and heart-leveling work of your Word and Spirit. Thank you for the peculiarity of John and his fearlessness to call us to repent. Come, Holy Spirit, and particularize this call to repentance in my own life. I sense it will open the way for awakening. Speak into the growing silence of my heart. I am willing. In the name of Jesus Messiah—the one who came, is here, and is coming again—for his glory and our good, amen. 


How is the Word of God coming to you in these days of Advent? What is the shape of the wilderness you find yourself in? How is the silence coming? What’s your record so far?