(watch here: https://youtu.be/o0Sr6qy5oI4)
1The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
2As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,
‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way;
3 the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.”’
4John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7He proclaimed, ‘The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. 8I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.’
Like it or not, Jesus is coming. Like it or not, Jesus is going to be born anew in the hearts and minds of thousands. Like it or not, Jesus is going to transform lives this season. I don’t know how, I don’t know where, but I am confident Jesus is coming to us very, very soon. For some of us, these words create great anxiety. We don’t want to meet our Lord, we’re not ready to meet our Lord. We afraid he’ll judge us for not being ready, for not living lives that are worthy of his love, for not doing what he commanded us to do. And yet for some of us, we eagerly await the coming of our Lord. We have lived worthy lives, we have done what he told us to do, we are ready. We are excited to meet Jesus and welcome him into our lives as master and guide. Jesus is coming whether we like it or not.
I think we need to constantly remind ourselves of this truth all throughout this season of Advent. We constantly need to remember that Jesus is much bigger than you and me. Jesus can do much more than you and me. And Jesus will do what we don’t want to do. His ways are not our ways. Jesus’ mission is not our mission. He comes to us for one purpose and one purpose only—to love us. We have a hard time loving us, both ourselves and those around us. We don’t know how to love ourselves, at least not the way he loves us. Jesus loves us like no one else, not even ourselves. Jesus loves us so much that he was willing to die for us. Perhaps more importantly, he was willing to be born to us. Jesus knows our world. Jesus knows the sin and heartache of our world and yet he chooses to be born into it, to walk among it, to live it firsthand. Why? Because he loves us and he wants to be near us. He wants us to know the love of the Father. He wants us to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Like it or not, Jesus is coming to us.
Truth be told, none of us is worthy to receive Jesus. We’re all sinners, undeserving of his love and mercy and grace. This isn’t to say that none of us should receive Jesus. No, we should all receive Jesus into our lives. Can we all receive him? Sure, but only if we prepare to receive him. Our sins keep us from receiving him. They keep us from hearing him when he calls our names. They keep us from living outside of ourselves. They keep us from experiencing the love he has to offer. When we’re wrapped up in our sins and our sinful natures, we can’t receive Jesus. We can only live for ourselves and our own selfishness. We need to step outside of ourselves, we need to open our hearts and minds to allow someone else to do the steering. I know just how difficult of a task this is to do. For too many years, I felt like I had to be the one making all the decisions for my life. I felt like if I only worked hard enough, if I only learned enough, if I only did enough then I could become the master of my life. But there’s never enough work to be done and stuff to be learned. No one is an absolute master of his/her life. We just fool ourselves into believing we have control. No, God is in control of everything, even our small, inconsequential lives. God is the absolute master and whatever control we feel we have over our lives is a gift from him. The Father sends the Son to remind us of who the true master is. Like it or not, Jesus is coming.
John prepared the way of the Lord and made his paths straight. John, a man of brutish outward appearance, could see into the sinful hearts of men and could see that men want so badly to become masters of their own lives. He could see that selfishness and pride had taken root in the hearts of men and called for us to repent. We must acknowledge our sin and ask for forgiveness if we are to prepare for Jesus to come into our lives. We must give up control over our lives, or at least the illusion of control. We must open our hearts to the Lord! We must allow Jesus to guide our hearts into truth and justice. In doing so, Jesus will guide our hearts into peace and harmony. Truth and justice go hand in hand with peace and harmony. When we live truthfully and justly, we live in peace and harmony with ourselves and each other. This is how Jesus wants us to live. This is how the Holy Spirit helps us to live. Like it or not, Jesus is coming.
Preparing for Jesus is more than simply tidying our houses, our outward appearances. Preparing for Jesus involves tidying our hearts and souls. It involves building relationships of truth and justice. It involves living peaceably with ourselves and those around us. Today we lit the candle of Peace as a reminder of the preparation we are making for Jesus’ coming. Jesus wants us to live as one in mind and spirit. Jesus knows we each have our own gifts but when we peacefully share these gifts with each other, we become his body in this world. We become greater than ourselves and our own selfish ambitions. We become one in him. He is our master using our gifts to spread his love to a world that desperately needs it. Like it or not, Jesus is coming.
Even though he wants nothing but peace and love within us, we must want it too. We must put away our hatred and anger, our jealousy and selfishness. We must acknowledge and put away our sinfulness. Jesus brings a great gift but only for those who have prepared to receive it. Jesus will fight the sin within us. Jesus will love us regardless of our sin. But does he deserve a fight? No, of course not! He deserves our love too! Let us heed John’s advice and set about the task of preparing our hearts and minds for Jesus this season. Let us get rid of all the false masters in our lives, ourselves included. Let us rejoice at his coming…his inevitable coming! This is a good thing, perhaps the only good thing about this whole season! Thanks be to God!
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.