December 3, 2010

Dec. 3: It’s the message

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By Ben Sutter, a sophomore history and communication double major from South Bend, Ind.
SCRIPTURE: Matthew 3:1-12 (NRSV)
Scroll down for complete Scripture.

DEVOTIONAL:

“Prepare the way of the Lord.” Wow, that is some kind of assignment. It’s a call to get people ready for the most life-changing event in history. John the Baptist is set apart by God to fulfill that role. God gives him a huge job and yet John the Baptist owns that task and it defines his life and gives him purpose. OK, so the way he goes about it is a little strange, in the desert with the locusts and all, but still he has a powerful message. It’s the message that brings people to him. “One who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals.” John lets his followers know that he is not the important one; Christ is.

John the Baptist is perfectly clear that Jesus is more powerful than he is. Though John baptizes by water and people are confessing to him, there is still something better coming. John the Baptist recognizes his secondary status, that he is only the prelude. He is there to prepare the people, to help them take the first step towards God’s redemption. John the Baptist prepares, but he leaves the main work of redemption for Jesus to fulfill.

What would it mean for us to recognize our own secondary status? What do we need to do to prepare the way for the Lord in our own lives this Advent? What paths do we need to make straight in anticipation of the Lord?

SCRIPTURE: Matthew 3:1-12 (NRSV)

In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’” Now John wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even 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. “I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

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Comments (13)

  1. A good way to start the day. A thoughful and well written challenge.

    Mary Mishler December 3, 2010 |
  2. Thank you for leaving some questions for reflection. That’s helpful to me during my Advent listening time.

    Nancy Flinchbaugh December 3, 2010 |
  3. What would it mean for us to prepare the way of the Lord in our life? I’ve been wondering the very same thing. I’ll continue to ponder on that today. Thanks for a good devotion this morning.

    JoAnn Barbour December 3, 2010 |
  4. I appreciate the daily readings. This morning’s caused me to do some thinking and will stay with me.

    Mark Moyer December 3, 2010 |
  5. I like the question, “What would it mean to recognize our own secondary status?”

    Joan December 3, 2010 |
  6. Thanks for distilling this passage in such a clear and compelling way.

    Duane Stoltzfus December 3, 2010 |
  7. Thanks for your challenging questions.

    Ruth December 3, 2010 |
  8. Thank you, Ben. This is one to embrace, and ponder, and appreciate!

    James N. Miller December 3, 2010 |
  9. Thoughtful and relevant–thank you. We need to keep in our minds your question regarding “making our way straight” in preparation of Christ’s coming!

    Ethel Umble December 3, 2010 |
  10. Thanks for your devotional, Ben. It made me stop and
    think about my life, and what the Lord is asking me to do. I realized, also, that it’s these “still, quiet moments”
    especially that make Christmas meaningful to me.

    Loretta Yoder Ostojic December 3, 2010 |
  11. Ben, I hope you’re considering some kind of youth ministry. You have a gift for casual writing, and that’s what kids respond to.

    Maureen Nalezny December 3, 2010 |
  12. It snowed yesterday. As I was walking my dogs this morning I noticed that those who walked through the snow before me walked a winding path. The path underneath the snow is straight but was hidden from sight. I walked the path that was hidden to others, hopefully making it easier for those to follow behind me.

    Paul Mares December 5, 2010 |
  13. Loved your fresh approach to this. I am looking for an Advent devotion for a small Bible Study group and you have finally given me a new thought. Thanks.

    Pat Enomoto December 6, 2010 |