If you plan to travel anywhere between Cove Port, Utah and Baltimore Maryland this holiday season, you’re in luck. You’ve got a pretty straight shot from one point to the other. Interstate 70 runs through 9 states, right through the middle of the country.
A nice big chunk of that road runs right through Kansas, and I’ve had the pleasure of living in several cities along or near I-70. I went to high school in Salina. I was a youth director, and then many years later an associate pastor, in Lawrence. I’ve lived in Eudora , Topeka, Kansas City, and Manhattan. Now I live in Wamego, just a dozen miles from the highway.
I’ve driven west to Denver and East to Cincinnati, and hardly changed my latitude. And so, I would like to nominate I-70 to be the official North American highway for Jesus’ impending birth.
2153 miles from end to end. That’s plenty of road for Jesus’ runway, right?
Well actually, the road is for us as much as it is for him. Isaiah’s prophecy, as remembered in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, is about the pathway for Jesus to us. But when you think about it, a big part of this whole straight path thing is about us straightening out all the twists and curves and obstacles that might keep us from meeting up with him.
That’s why we use this quote during Advent. This is our work, getting ready to meet Jesus. This is the task before us — find the straightest path to Christ, and then head towards him!
I was once tickled silly by a bumper sticker I saw that said “Asphalt, the smooth ride”. How random is that? Well, maybe not. I-70 has been under construction since 1956 (and still is today). For more than 60 years people have been working to make this path straight for us, laid out by engineers and workers helping to get us where we’re headed. (When’s the last time you said a thank you prayer for asphalt?)
The same is true for the path to the Christ child. Isaiah wrote his words 500 years before Christ’s birth, and countless believers, disciples, and seekers after him have been helping to make way.
There are so many travelers who have come before you, who have helped offer a straight path to the manger. Devotion books, advent calendars, wreaths, sacred music, and of course the birth narratives in scripture all help make our journeys more effective. Each of them line the highway to the Child, like on-ramps or rest stops or gas stations along the way.
Meeting Jesus halfway doesn’t mean you have to trample down your own uncharted course. You do not travel alone. Advent is not a solo endeavor. It is God’s people making a beeline to Bethlehem, letting nothing divert us from our task. Take the straightest route you can so you’re ready to encounter Christ this Christmas.
Christ IS coming. But you don’t have to sit and wait. Wherever you’re departing from, dear traveler, you’re never far from I-70. May the road rise up to meet you.
And may it be a smooth ride.
Have a great week,