Prepare a Highway for our God!

Revd Chris Wood

The M62 motorway which connects Hull with Liverpool is an incredible feat of engineering. Conceived originally in 1930 it took over 40 years to come to fruition, and will have been a challenging for all those involved – especially on the section over the Pennines where it rises to 1,221 feet above sea level, being the highest point of any motorway in England. It’s construction had to make allowances for such things as a farmer that refused to leave his farm, the Pennine Way which crosses at its highest point, as well as accommodating inhospitable hilly terrain, peat bogs, and atrocious weather conditions. It has been suggested by some that you can tell when the motorway crosses over from Yorkshire into Lancashire as that’s when it becomes cobbled... (only joking!)

Although difficult for traffic at the best of times because of the long hauls up steep inclines – especially lorries with their heavy loads – the route has been made significantly easier through the building of numerous bridges across valleys that afford spectacular views, as well as the way they blasted through some of the hills to reduce the climb. It was even designed so that the motorway could remain open even in adverse weather conditions, using the wind to good effect, enabling drivers to travel over the Pennines while snow is falling thick and fast.

For anyone that is prone to complain about this motorway should cast their minds back to the difficult routes over the Pennines prior to its construction, that would wind slowly through valleys or crawl over hills that seemed to take ever and a day, reinforcing the belief that the good Lord had created the Pennines to make it difficult to get between the two. With wonderful improvements to the road network, this route is now second only in popularity to the M25 motorway, and connects major towns and cities in the North, as well as two major ports (Hull and Liverpool).

Prepare!

This particular motorway reminds me of the key Advent passage from the Prophet Isaiah when he announces: ‘Prepare a highway across the desert for our God. Let every valley be raised, every mountain and hill be brought low, uneven ground be made smooth, and steep places become level’ [Isaiah 40: 3 – 4]. By using this illustration, the Prophet is offering a message of hope to a people who felt bereft of their God in a strange place, and suggested that He was going to intervene by removing barriers that had alienated them from God, and make it easier for them to return to where they belonged by being in a rightful relationship. Once again God is seen as taking the initiative, so that ‘we might worship in His presence in holiness and righteousness our whole life long’ (Luke 1: 74).

This is the message that we hear each Advent as we prepare ourselves for Christmas celebrations. It is always good to remind ourselves of the Prophet’s assurance which has been realised in the birth of God’s Son – to remove the barriers that have alienated us from God, so that His errant people might find their way back to their God. The words of Isaiah were called to mind by the angelic host when they announced the birth of Jesus, they proclaimed ‘Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed and all humankind together will see it’. (Isaiah 40: 5 and Luke 2: 14).

God Bless

Chris

December 2016 / January 2017