Dec. 3: It’s the message
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“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.”