This article by C. Hawkes was found in the January 1953 issue of Progress, the monthly magazine of the Romford Congregational Church
We have heard in our first talk [see previous article] how, often unwittingly, the way was prepared for the coming of Christ into this world, and I would like to continue from there.
During the days of His childhood His path, like ours, was smoothed by loving parents, but the time soon came when, to fulfil the plan and to do the work for which God has sent Him, He had to take the hard way. He left the smooth path and took the unmade road which led Him to Calvary, and although He Himself took that way, it was ordinary people like you and me, who were responsible for the conditions of His path through life. The friends, His disciples, who worshipped their Master, did everything in their power to make His road happy and comfortable. So many small incidents in the Gospels show of their concern for Him, when He was tired or when they thought the people were worrying Him. Yes, they tried to show their love in a practical form, as did those who opened their homes to him, where He gladly partook of the hospitality offered. Then there were the people who prepared Christ's way into Jerusalem by spreading in His path palm branches and even their own garments. What joy these little acts of devotion must have brought to our Saviour's heart. But, alas, those who were concerned about Him were few compared with those who, to put it into modern, idiom, "Couldn't have cared less" what sort of path He trod. Then, worst of all, there were those who hated Him and deliberately prepared that awful road to Calvary.
Since those days Christianity has spread all over the world, and yet how little His way has changed. There are still the friends, still the indifferent, and still the hostile, and I think each one of us here should search our hearts and ask ourselves the question: "What am I doing to Prepare the Way of the Lord and make His path straight?"
My first job on leaving school was in the drawing office of a big engineering works in Manchester. It was in the days when Crystal Sets were the wonder of the age, and the 2LO station was still in its infancy. There was great excitement everywhere when the news got round that the first provincial broadcasting station was to be in our grounds, and that Royalty was coming for the opening day and would also inspect our works. Perhaps some of you know Trafford Park, Manchester, but for you who do not I will tell you that it consists of miles and miles of factories, bordering the famous Ship Canal, and the road that ran right through the Park (why they called it that I can't imagine, because anything more unlike a park does not exist) was cobbled and in a very bad condition through the continuous heavy traffic, but immediately it was known Royalty was coming, gangs of road repairers appeared and that long road right to the gates of the works, and through them for a further half mile up to the doors of the New Station, was made straight for the coming of a man who was one day to be an earthly king. That was not forced labour. It was done joyfully and all the energy that they possessed was put into it, and yet we give so little thought to the coming of Christ and the way He has to tread.
I wonder into which category, on thinking about it, we have had to put ourselves.
Have you had to admit that you are one of the hostile, again crucifying Christ? One of the saddest things about Christ's death was that it was Judas, who had one time loved Him and lived in daily contact with Him, who first put Him on the direct road to the Cross. There are still many Judas's in this world, who are still willing to sell the Lord they once loved, and all He stands for - for thirty pieces of silver.
But perhaps you are just one of the very large crowd who are indifferent.
The majority of people nowadays wouldn't harm Him, but they don't even notice Him. If you ask them they call themselves Christians, yet they never give Christ a thought. There is no way prepared for Christ to enter their hearts, and because He is not there they cannot prepare the way in the hearts of others. For instance, it is impossible for those who do not know Christ to make His way plain in the hearts of their children. I was horrified to read, the other day, that in an Australian school a class was asked the question, "Does God really exist?" and ninety-six per cent answered "No." I hope this would not be the reply if put to a class in England but the Australians are a people of our race, a Christian - not a heathen land. How sadly the parents and teachers of those particular children have failed in the preparation for Christ's coming.
Perhaps in answer to the question we have asked ourselves, we, here, can all truthfully say "I do love the Lord, and I am trying to prepare His way." But how hard are we working? Trade Union hours and no more? Or are we like those workmen in Manchester, prepared to work long hours, joyfully, so that the work shall be done to time?
Do we go to church on Sunday and then go home feeling that we have done all that is required of us, and pleased that we are not among those dreadful people who never think of going to church? Or perhaps we teach in Sunday School and then say, "Ah, well, I've done my bit until next Sunday." How easy it is to slip into the self-righteous state.
At our church meeting recently we had a discussion on the methods a Christian should use to win people for Christ, and many seemed to think that living a good life before men was sufficient, but I felt that this was not enough. There are so many people who never give a thought to God whose lives compare very favourably with the lives of many Christians. There are thousands of these people who spend there lives in service for others, and so a Christian living a life of love and service is just classed with the others as a "good sort".
How then are we to Prepare the Way? By our everyday lives, certainly, but we must endeavour to teach as well as live our religion. Can I give you an illustration of what I mean? Perhaps you have read it already in your daily paper. Some months ago, in North London, quads were born, one of whom died soon after birth, but the other three thrived. It soon became apparent, however, that they were all blind, and the parents were persuaded that the kindest thing to do was to let them go to a home for blind children where they would be cared for, and they knew that if they agreed it would mean that their children would one day be able to make a living for themselves, but can you imagine having to make that decision, and the desolation in the home afterwards? How fortunate for them that their doctor was a Christian. Up till now she had shown to that family all the kindness and service that a Christian should, but she went further. She brought them a Bible and asked them to read it every night, and then pray for their babies' sight, even though the specialists had said that it was hopeless. She also taught a little prayer to the seven-year-old boy. The sequel - a few weeks ago one baby was noticed reaching out for a spoon. An examination was made it was found that the baby could see. It was restored to its parents, and the doctor came round and led the prayers of gratitude to God. She could have been a sincere Christian and yet left behind in that home nothing more than the reputation of being a kind doctor, but she not only lived her Christianity, she taught it, and in that home joy and hope were born, and the Way was prepared for the coming of Christ.
Such grand opportunities do not often present themselves, but if they did, would we avail ourselves of them? It takes courage and endurance, this road-making, but shall we each pray for these qualities so that when He comes our bit of road shall be well done and His Way straight?