Read Matthew 3:1-3 and Isaiah 40:1-5
1In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea 2and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." 3This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:
"A voice of one calling in the desert,
'Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.'" (NIV)
1Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
2Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her
that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for,
that she has received from the Lord's hand double for all her sins.
3A voice of one calling: "In the desert prepare the way for the Lord;
make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God.
4Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain.
5And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken." (NIV)
This second Sunday in Advent has the most variance in what it is called. Some refer to it is love. Other as Faith and others refer to the candle as the Bethlehem Candle referencing Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem. But all agree on the focus with is this idea of faith and preparation. And when we think about faith, love is deeply connected to faith.
Matthew’s passage in talking about John the Baptist, takes us back to the Isaiah passage. John was somewhat of a blunt person. When he saw evil, he called it out. But his calling it out was not to put someone down, but a call to reprent. John’s message was that there was one coming who would make things right. Isaiah said that “the glory of the Lord [would] be revealed and all mankind together [would] see it.” We have the ability of hindsight and know that the glory revealed was Jesus Christ.
While there is nothing we do to earn God’s love in Christ, there is a preparation we do to receive the fullness of God’s grace. And that preparation, the making paths straight, is what John called the people to, repentance. When our wrongs are uncovered, our sin is exposed because of the light of Christ, then we need to react in the right way. One way is to simply make excuses or to blame others or to blame our upbringing, or our environment. Sometimes we are good at making excuses for our sin. There is always a good reason we did not put God first in our lives.
For John, the proper response is simply to repent. To repent is a simple term. The basic two requisites of repentance are "to turn from evil, and to turn to the good.” One is to abandoned both evil intentions and evil deeds. Both motive and conduct are to be radically changed. An example is found in Isaiah 1:16-17: "Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow."
Basically, there is the free and sovereign act of God's mercy followed by a conscious decision to turn to God (a turning that goes beyond sorrow and contrition). It is truly a new way of living. To repent means to stop one thing and pick up another.
Our preparation therefore is to self-examine our lives under the light of God’s word. From there we can then focus on what needs to be eliminated and what needs to be reinforced. This is a practice used by many in so many areas of their lives. But for some reason, we do not apply it to our faith lives.
How do you see repentance being played out in your lives? For me, I see it in the changes made. One of the more striking ways I see it is to see an old movie that I liked in my 20’s. And as I am watching it, I find all the themes, ideas, and jokes as not so funny anymore. I have changed.
What does it mean to prepare your hearts to receive Christ? Do you take time during the year to assess your faith journey? You might try this by journaling some.
God calls us to prepare the way by preparing our hearts to receive Christ every day. Each person prepares differently, but all must prepare.
Blessings and Peace