Summary: We need to be prepared and we need to prepare those around us for the coming of the Lord.
It’s interesting on a day like today how you can look back on the past 3 years and think it seems like no time at all. But then as you think about it some more, so much has happened in those 3 years that it feels like Camille has always been here. I mean it’s hard to believe that Camille and Rob were only married last January. It feels like we’ve been talking about it for years.
But not only do we look back on three years and think how fast they’ve gone, we also look forward and wonder what the next three years might bring - or the next thirteen, or thirty, depending on how old you are. What do you think about when you look forward in your life to the next stage?
Some people might be thinking about a change of job. I’m sure that’s on the mind of Rob and Camille. What will the new place be like? What support will you get for ministry? How will your ministry be received?
Then if you’re as old as I am (and that’s pretty old!), you might be starting to think about the possibility of retirement. On the other hand if you’re one of the youth group you might be thinking about a VCE year coming up or leaving school and going to University, thinking about what subjects you’ll choose, what courses to take. Others might be thinking about the possibility of marriage, or having babies, or moving house.
But whatever stage you’re at one of the questions that arise at every stage is whether you’re ready for what you’re moving into. Rob’s just finished four years at Ridley College so I’m sure he’s well prepared for ministry. Camille has had three years of training here by our great youth group so I’m sure she’s well prepared for whatever Diamond Creek can throw at her. But what about the rest of us? Are you ready for whatever might be waiting for you in the months and years to come?
I was reminded, two weeks ago when we read the gospel reading for Advent Sunday, from Luke 21, just how carefully we need to prepare for what’s to come. Let me remind you of what Luke 21 says: "10Then Jesus said to them, ’Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; 11there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven. 12But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. ...’ 29Then he told them a parable: ’Look at the fig tree and all the trees; 30as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. 31So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. 32Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. 33Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.’"
As you think about what might be coming in your life, do you ever stop to give a thought to the bigger picture of God’s plans for the world? Do you ever think that Jesus is due to return sometime soon; that you need to make sure you’re ready for him?
The people in today’s gospel reading weren’t that much different from us. They didn’t have TV and radio of course nor mobile phones and Internet connections or any of the modern technological marvels we take for granted. But they were basically doing what we do; getting on with life, working at their jobs, earning a living, thinking how they could afford that room extension, wondering which school to enroll in, which tradesman to take up an apprenticeship with; dreaming about owning the latest donkey, or maybe even a horse if they were really rich. But not many were giving any thought to God’s plans for their nation.
That is, until John the Baptist arrived on the scene with his message of warning: "Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight." Shivers would have run down people’s backs as they heard those words. Weren’t they the words of Isaiah 40? Didn’t Isaiah say that? "5The glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken." God was about to reveal his glory. But how would he do it? John knew: Look at what he said, in v16: "16I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire." Jesus was coming to reveal the Father’s glory to his people Israel. So they needed to prepare. And how were they to prepare? They needed to repent. They needed to show by their behaviour that they were ready to receive their king. So he says: "8Bear fruits worthy of repentance. ... 9Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire." Jesus’ coming was a serious matter. God was about to appear in their midst so they needed to be ready for him.