12/22/12 David Prehn, (C’16)
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.” ’
John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our ancestor”; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the axe is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. -Luke 3:1-9
When I first read this excerpt from Luke, I immediately was reminded of Orlando Gibbons’ anthem “This is the record of John” traditionally sung in Advent. The closing line of the anthem is “Make straight the way of the Lord” which, of course, is most appropriate for Advent: a time of looking forward and preparing for what is to come. Similar to Gibbons’ anthem, the passage that I immediately connected with in Luke’s account was “Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low.”
I believe most freshmen can sympathize with me when I say that it takes some time to truly find your place or calling in a new environment. Whether it is in social, academic, or spiritual situations, there is an inevitable discomfort and anxiety that comes in the package that Sewanee offers new students each year. We are all trying so desperately to say the right things, join the most interesting clubs, listen to the best music, or take the most desirable classes in hopes that through these things we will find that special group that recognizes who we “really” are. But what if we took away all these devices, cleared our minds, and stopped, saying, as the Growing in Grace theme reads, “Here I am, Lord,” how can I do your will? So often I forget that I am, like others, here at Sewanee by the hand of God. He has a purpose for me and in Advent, by preparing for the Birth of Christ, I am being reminded to clear out all of these things that get in the way of His entering my mind and soul and empowering me to do his will.
I return to Gibbons’ anthem. The anthem was sung every year on the third Sunday in Advent at my boarding school in Maryland. After reading this passage from Luke I searched the anthem online and as the voices come through my headphones, I was reminded of the voices of my high school chapel choir. While I began my spiritual journey in high school, I believe I am to continue at Sewanee and apply what I have learned so to do God’s will. Through this, I can show people who I “really” am by, as John and Luke suggest, making the Lord’s path to me straight so I may then receive His grace even more clearly. Only then, through hardships and disappointments, triumphs and victories, can God empower me to do His will in Sewanee and beyond.