Summary: “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” 2 Peter 3:9.
Theme: Prepare for Christ
Text: Is. 40:1-11; 2 Pet. 3:8-15a; Mark 1:1-8
Today is the 2nd Sunday of Advent. Advent reminds us that very soon we will be celebrating the birth of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ? The promise of His birth was revealed long before it was fulfilled and this should remind us that His promise to return would also be fulfilled. Advent therefore should be a time of preparation, preparation for both the celebration of Christ’s birth and preparation for His return. It should be a time to reflect on sin, the forgiveness of sin made possible by the shedding of the blood of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and receiving this forgiveness through repentance and belief in Christ. The birth of Christ should so prepare and change us that we are ready for His return. How are we preparing to celebrate the birth of Christ? Do we see His birth as necessary for our redemption and restoration or do we see it just as a time of celebration? The best way to prepare for Christ is to see the great value of our salvation, be sure of it and share the good news with others.
The right preparation for Christ involves listening to God. He always sends us a witness to prepare us since in our sinful condition we cannot do anything for Him. Just as in Exodus God sent an angel ahead of the Israelites to prepare the way to the Promised Land so He sent John to prepare the way to our hearts for the promised Lord. He has promised in His Word He will return and He has clearly stated how we are to prepare for Him. Unfortunately no one likes to do what is involved in the preparation especially in our time when we are used to having what we want instantly. We would rather be on a trip than making preparations for one and would rather be living in a house than making preparations to build one. Life requires preparation, and it is in the preparation that we will either win or lose. It has been said that all is well that begins well. The right preparation for the Lord is to know the Word of God, believe that Jesus Christ is God, and have a personal relationship with Him.
Are we ready to celebrate the birth of Christ and are we ready for His return? The reading from Isaiah refers to the Jews’ return to Jerusalem from the exile in Babylon. The prophet is here calling for the building of a road leading toward home and restoration. In Mark application is made of this event that occurred 6 centuries earlier. Now it’s not a road being built in the wilderness, but rather someone named John the Baptist who’s out in the wilderness advising the people to “Prepare the way for the Lord, and to make straight paths for him”. He is not telling them to prepare a literal road. Rather, he’s telling them to prepare themselves for the coming of Jesus. The imagery is of a road that needs to be repaired so that it may be ready for the Lord to use. In the past, and this still happens today when the King travels, every effort would be made to ensure that the road was as smooth as possible. John’s announcement of the coming of the King and His kingdom and his call to repentance were ways of preparing the way for the coming of Jesus. We are all preparing for something whether we know it or not. The only proper preparation for tomorrow is the right use of today. Preparation today gives success tomorrow and it is always better to prepare than to repair. Spending time on preparation reduces the actual time spent in completing the job as repairing takes up an even longer time. Successful preparation in any endeavour begins with knowing what you want. Then you will go to the right places; find the right people; ask the right questions; and pay the right price. John the Baptist came to prepare the way for Jesus. By telling us that John “appeared” in the wilderness, Mark is drawing a parallel between John the Baptist and the prophet Elijah, who like John frequented the desert, who like John wore a leather belt, and who like John ministered beside the Jordan River. The parallel becomes even more remarkable when we remember that it was beside the Jordan that Elijah the prophet disappeared, and was taken into heaven. Now John appears baptising and proclaiming a baptism of repentance. He told people to repent and to return to God. He also warned them of judgment if they failed to repent. Each one of us has been called to prepare the way for Jesus as well. What is it that keeps you from preparing the way for Jesus? Is it selfishness or some other sinful behaviour? Whatever it is God wants to take care of it so that you can share the good news this Christmas.