I have two items from the Wednesday Advent service at the LCMS church.
A. Overall, the sermon was about John the Baptist. One of the texts on which the pastor commented was Isaiah 40:3: “The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God” (KJV). The pastor said that the Hebrew word translated “prepare” actually means to clear the way. It is like clearing the way for the President to arrive. Indeed, that is what Holladay has: “piel: pf. פִּנָּה, פִּנִּיתָ, פִּנּוּ, impv. פַּנּוּ: — 1. get rid of Zp 3:15; — 2. clear up Ps 80:10; obj. house Gn 24:31; — 3. obj. derek, clear (the way) Is 40:3.”
What do we need to clear? There is our desire to be in charge, to decide who deserves love and forgiveness and who does not. There is our busy schedules, or our tendency to “nice-ify” the Christmas story rather than seriously considering its ramifications.
B. Malachi 3:2 states: “But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap” (KJV). Fullers’ soap, the pastor said, is bleach: it really whitens what it washes, even if one did not want it to get so white! We decorate for Christmas, making things look better, but God wants to purify us. God does so by forgiving our sins through Christ, but also practically.