Summary: A look at how to prepare for the coming of Jesus from the teachings of John the Baptist.
I was in Wal-Mart a few months ago with a mission. It was the end of the summer season, so I went to the lawn and garden section to check out the sales on all the stuff you use to keep your yard and property looking nice. I went there with the intention of buying a weed eater if the price was right, and I wanted to see what else I could find a bargain on. As I entered into the lawn and garden section of the store, I noticed that they had already started putting out the Halloween decorations. It was nearing the end of September, so this was to be expected; however, I was soon to discover that Halloween was not the only holiday they were ready for. After two aisles of vampires, jack-o-lanterns, and ghosts, I ran smack dab into Frosty, Rudolph, Santa, and the rest of the Christmas gang. I looked at my wife and asked, “Do they really have Christmas stuff out already?” hoping that she would pinch me and I would wake up from a nightmare. Sure enough, Wal-Mart was ready for Christmas in September. It won’t be long until you walk in there to buy sparklers for the Fourth of July and you will have to walk past the giant inflatable snow globe to get them.
The rule of thumb in my household is that we don’t start getting ready for Christmas until after Thanksgiving. I like to take my holidays one at a time. I am not holding anything against those who have been ready for months, but you may have a problem. You may be addicted to Christmas which can result in Christmasitis. Well, if you are in doubt about this, I have come up with a test which can help you determine if you have contracted this disease. Give yourself a point for every question you answer yes to.
1. Do you have more than five giant inflatable lawn decorations?
2. Did you buy any of this year’s Christmas presents at the after Christmas sales last year?
3. Do you leave your Christmas lights up all year and try to pass them off as lights to celebrate other holidays?
4. Have you ever bought an artificial tree because real ones don’t last for three months?
5. Do you rent or own a shed or storage unit because you have more decorations than your house can hold?
On a more serious note, I want to ask you this question: Are you ready for Christmas? Normally when this question is asked we can point to a number of things to gauge our readiness. Do we have our tree out and decorated? Are all the decorations and lights hung? Is our shopping completed? Did we send out our Christmas cards? Do we have everything wrapped? As we go through the season, we can check off everything that gets done. However, this is not what I am referring to when I ask the question, “Are you ready for Christmas?” I am referring to the spiritual aspects of the season.
In all the gospels, we are given a picture of John the Baptist who comes before Jesus Christ and gives the people a message to get ready for the coming Messiah. Let’s take a look at this message in Matthew 3:1-10.
In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the desert of Judea, and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, and make straight paths for him.’” John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”
This morning, I want to take a look at what this man of God told the people of Israel to do to get ready for the coming of the Lord. There are four key words that are spoken in this passage. We must heed these words if we wish to fully prepare for Him at Christmastime. Before we go any further, let’s ask the Lord to bless our time.