You who dwell in the garden with friends in attendance,let me hear your voice.
Song of Songs 8:13
By now you will have done all your Christmas shopping, probably sent all your Christmas cards and have everything organised for the coming festivities. Still got things to do? Well, don’t worry there are a few days left, but you need to be prepared.
As every housewife knows, the secret of a good party or event lies in the preparation, and that was the role played by John the Baptist in this world-changing event we call the Nativity. His father, Zechariah, would have told him, probably at an early age that an angel had promised that he, John would take after the prophet Elijah. (I bet he had a few sleepless nights thinking about that one!) As the son of a priest John would have grown up knowing the Scriptures. No doubt father and son would have talked over the meaning of the angel’s message as John ‘grew and became strong in the spirit’ Luke 1:80 NIV. When he was old enough he took some time away from family and friends to spend time as a hermit in the desert. There he could contemplate his mission and prepare himself for the enormity of the task to which he had been called. That task, like that of the prophets, was to call people back to God ‘for the kingdom of God has come near’ Matthew 3:2 NIV. He was to fulfil the prophecy: ‘As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet: ‘A voice of one calling in the wilderness, “Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him”’. Luke 3:4 (NIV)
In his mission his most urgent plea was that the people should repent their sins and be baptized so that they might know they were forgiven. Such was the strength of his message that people flocked into the wilderness to hear him and to be baptized by him in the waters of the river Jordan. From the power of his speaking some thought that he was the Messiah but John was quick to point out that ‘I baptise you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire’. Matthew 3:11 What a day that must have been for John when Jesus appeared in the crowd coming forward asking John to baptize him! On that day all the preparation was fulfilled, John had completed the task God had set for him; he had prepared the way for the Lord.
We too, are in the desert waiting in joyful hope for the coming of Jesus. We too, need to prepare ourselves for the coming of the Lord, by repenting our sins, by letting our hearts be changed, by turning our lives around. Remember, God does not wait until we are ready. He will come whether we are ready or not, so let us get on with the preparations right away.
Peter is a father and a grandfather who has been retired from full time work for a number of years