Summary: Before Jesus was presented as the Messiah John the Baptist issued a call to preparation.
Preparation for Christmas
Mark 1: 1-8
The title of today’s message is “Preparation for Christmas.” This probably suggests to you; going to the attic and bringing down all the decorations, putting up the tree and all the lights, purchasing the gifts, doing all the holiday cooking and baking and maybe a thousand other things that “need” to be done before Christmas. But that is not what I mean at all.
In addition you may find today Scripture an unusual choice for a Christmas series since in Mark we find the only gospel account in the Bible that has nothing at all to say about the birth of Jesus. In fact Mark mentions neither the miraculous conception nor the birth of Jesus.
Last week in “The Prophecies of Christmas” we saw that before Jesus was born in human form it had been prophesied for hundreds of years and today I want us to see that before Jesus presented himself as the Messiah there was a call to preparation.
Mark begins his account of the life of Jesus in this way, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. (2) As it is written in the Prophets: "Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, Who will prepare Your way before You." (3) "The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the LORD; Make His paths straight.’"
Even though Mark doesn’t give us a classic Christmas story, when he opens his book, he essentially wraps up the Christmas message in just a few words. There is nothing wrong with Christmas trees and tinsel and children delight at the unwrapping of presents and food and laughter and the making of family memories. All those things make Christmas special.
The opening line of Mark is “the beginning of the Gospel” – “Gospel” translated means literally “good news.” The beginning of the good news is how it reads. Our task at Christmas is not to chop down the tree of celebration – rather it is to rediscover the cause of celebration – “What is this good news?”
Mark does not begin his gospel account with the birth of Christ instead he tells about a rather unusual character named John the Baptist.
This morning I want us to note three things about John.
First, He Was An Unusual Messenger
Verse six says of John, “Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.”
I get the impression that John who was the cousin of Jesus was a little different. You probably have some people in your family that could be classified as a little different. There are just some folks who if you invited them to social function you would feel a little uncomfortable to have them around. John was like that. John wore clothes made of camel hair, wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locust and wild honey. He was a man of desert, he ate the food of the desert and he wore the clothing of the desert.
Not Only Was He Was An Unusual Messenger but …
Secondly, He Had An Unexpected Message
Mark states that John fulfilled the prophecies of both Malachi (3:1) and Isaiah (40:3-5). The more extensive prophecy of Isaiah says, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: "Prepare the way of the LORD; Make straight in the desert A highway for our God. (4) Every valley shall be exalted And every mountain and hill brought low; The crooked places shall be made straight And the rough places smooth; (5) The glory of the LORD shall be revealed, And all flesh shall see it together; For the mouth of the LORD has spoken."
When John the Baptist comes he acts as a Herald or an announcer that Jesus is coming, “prepare the way for the Lord.” The word translated “prepare” can be used of making a thing ready or keeping it ready. John was not telling them to prepare a literal road, rather he is telling them to prepare themselves for the coming of Jesus. He says, “get ready!”
In our love of the celebration of the birth of Jesus I think we sometimes get lost. We love to prepare for Christ because it’s like preparing for a baby to be born. We get so wrapped up in the manager scene that we forget that He is not a baby anymore! We think that somehow he is satisfied to see us make our annual appearance at Christmas and sing a few Christmas Carols. This one who was born into a crude manage is now a KING.
John the Baptist was telling people, “you need to get ready because someone more powerful than I is coming.” John the Baptist tries to get the world ready for Christ. The world of his day was made up of religious and non-religious people, neither of which was ready for the Lord. The non-religious of his day, like our own, liked their sin and didn’t want Christ in their lives. The religious of that day and now, think that they don’t need Christ. So when Christ came, the religious and the non-religious alike rejected him. They were not ready for Christ to come into their lives.