Summary: A reminder to prepare and expect Jesus through the words of John the Baptist
It’s Christmas Time!?
December 17, 2017
Christmas is all about expectation and preparation! It seems to go back and forth between the two. We are expectant, but we must prepare to receive. We plan and prepare to meet and celebrate the arrival of the King of kings and Lord of lords. Even as we are expectant, so were the people prior to Jesus’ arrival.
The Jewish people lived with the same kind of expectation about "Christmas." They lived with the hope of the coming of the Messiah. For centuries the coming of God's Chosen One had been proclaimed by the prophets, and all of Israel waited in expectation for His arrival, for the day when He would usher in a new kingdom of peace, prosperity, dominion and justice for all Israel.
Because of this, every time a preacher, a prophet or a military leader became popular, people would want ask: Are you the Messiah?
The people asked John the Baptist if he was the Messiah. John replied, "Nope, but He’s coming."
He told the people when the Messiah comes, He will change your heart, your soul, your being. He will fill your spirit with the presence of God and will fill your life with purpose.
John preached a message of expectation and preparation. He preached that it’s time to get ready for the arrival of the Messiah.
John also preached repentance. He told his listeners they needed to turn from their sins and be baptized.
Today, two thousand years later, we recognize baptism is an integral part of the Christian tradition. After we embrace Jesus as our Lord and Savior we become baptized. It’s part of our stating to the church and the world, who we are in Christ.
The first century Jews saw it differently. Baptism had 2 meanings for the Jews. Firstly it was a ritual cleansing. You did it often. It had the sense that you were now clean before God. It was also a ritual for the gentile converting to Judaism. Gentiles were considered to be totally unclean because they never followed Jewish law. In order to be thoroughly cleansed, they needed to be baptized. This baptism represented the washing away of their sinful gentile nature, making them a new person, cleansed in the Jewish faith.
The Jews also believed they didn't enter the world bearing the same sinfulness the gentiles did; they believed they had a favored-nation status with God.
So John the Baptist comes on the scene and he’s telling the people something radical. Simply being Jewish isn't enough. You must turn from your sins and live the right kind of life. To demonstrate this repentance, he challenged his listeners to follow the ritual of baptism, because baptism symbolized the end of the old life and the start of a new life.
So what does this have to do with Christmas?
John the Baptist preached a message telling the people to prepare and expect the coming of Jesus, the Messiah.
Last week we saw how John proclaimed, "Prepare the way for the Lord." He was saying, “Make room in your life for Him. Beat a path to God’s throne room. Straighten out those crooked roads and smooth out the bumpy places. Help those whom you have the ability to help. Be God’s light to the world, showing His love and grace and power.”