Prepare the Royal Highway- an Advent Devotional for Dec. 5, 2017

This Advent season I am going to reflect on a hymn or carol daily as part of my spiritual practices. I am not sure where all these reflections will take me, but in conversation with my spiritual director, I am going to leave room for both “the head stuff” and “the heart stuff.” Some days might be more of one or another. I invite you to join me, as together we make space to listen, and be present, to sense what God might be up to. 

This coming weekend, many of you will hear calls to prepare, as John the Baptist will make his early debut in Year B of the revised common lectionary. With this in mind, I’ve got the hymn “Prepare the Royal Highway” by Frans Mikael Franzén stuck in my head today. It’s a Swedish folk tune from the 17th century, and when sung upbeat feels somewhere between the mix of a march and folk song.

Prepare the royal highway; the King of kings is near!
Let every hill and valley a level road appear!
Then greet the King of glory, foretold in sacred story:
Hosanna to the Lord, for he fulfills God’s word!

Part of the reason this hymn rings through my ear today is that I was on the road a bit today, out for a meeting in Columbus, Nebraska. The winds were blowing, but nothing like yesterday thankfully. It was a beautiful drive, on a highway that is currently under construction in parts as it changes and expands.

God’s people, see him coming: your own eternal king!
Palm branches strew before him! Spread garments! Shout and sing!
God’s promise will not fail you! No more shall doubt assail you!
Hosanna to the Lord, for he fulfills God’s word!

Preparing can mean practice and rehearsal, like these carolers, preparing to share the Good News through song, and to share praise for the One who is coming.

It’s hard not to feel a bit like you are in the procession on Palm Sunday when singing this hymn, and especially this verse. “Palm branches strew before him! Spread garments! Shout and sing!” It’s such a joyful and hopeful scene.

What does it look like when you prepare joyfully?  For me, believe it or not it means decorating, cleaning house, planning meals and menus, hosting friends and loved ones while listening to wonderful music or a thrilling sports game in the background. It can also mean practicing on piano and choir rehearsals.

Then fling the gates wide open to greet your promised king!
Your king, yet every nation its tribute too may bring.
All lands will bow before him; their voices join your singing:
Hosanna to the Lord, for he fulfills God’s word!

I used to love this verse. But after The Hunger Games series, I can’t stop thinking about “tribute,” with negative connotations. Maybe I’m not alone this? Regardless, I am hopeful for the positive view on this verse, of all peoples coming together.

His is no earthly kingdom; it comes from heaven above.
His rule is peace and freedom and justice, truth, and love.
So let your praise be sounding for kindness so abounding:
Hosanna to the Lord, for he fulfills God’s word!

Given what we see in some leaders and authorities in today’s world, it makes me long for the fulfillment of this verse even more. “His rule is peace and freedom, justice, truth, and love.”

What would this kind of leadership and authority look like today? Where do you see it? Where do you wish you saw it? Just some head and heart questions to ponder today. What do you think?


Credit/Reference: Mikael Franzén, “Prepare the Royal Highway,” Swedish folk tune, (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 2006), 264.

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