As I write this, almost everyone I know is doing something to get ready for Christmas. They are buying gifts, shopping for food, planning family gatherings, and preparing for church and community events. There is absolutely nothing wrong with getting ready for Christmas, but let’s also remember to get ready for Jesus.
The gospels point out that John the Baptist was sent to prepare people for the arrival of Jesus. John was the one that Isaiah predicted would come and prepare the way for the Lord so that all the people could see God’s salvation (Isaiah 40:3-5).
Chapter five of Luke’s gospel tells us how John prepared the way for Jesus. He began by preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins (v.3). Those who wanted to get right with God must repent, which is always a prerequisite for baptism. And please take note of the fact that John’s baptism had to do with the forgiveness of sins. How could we say anything less about the baptism that Jesus would later preach!?
Not everyone who came to John to be baptized had the right motive. He called them a “brood of vipers”! It takes a lot of courage to begin your sermon by calling your audience a bunch of snakes! But he got their attention and pointed out to them that they needed to show by their actions that they truly had repented. It seems that they thought that they were in good standing with God because they were Abraham’s descendants (vv.7-9). Our spiritual heritage can be a good thing, but we must stand before God on the basis of our own faith. John’s teaching about repentance would serve to prepare people for Jesus, who also had quite a lot to say about that subject.
The crowd seemed to accept John’s message and asked specific questions about how they might show true repentance. He answered that they should share with those in need, avoid being greedy and be content with what they had (vv.10-14). Since Christmas has been so greatly commercialized, this time of year really puts our level of contentment to the test, doesn’t it?! Jesus would teach a lot about our attitude toward material possessions, so John’s teaching on these matters would help people get ready for Jesus.
People were quite impressed with John, and started wondering if he might be the Messiah that the Jewish people were expecting. He assured them that he was not. The power of Jesus’ message and ministry would be far beyond anything they had seen or heard from John! V.18 says, “And with many other words John exhorted the people and proclaimed the good news to them.”
John did what he could to get people ready for Jesus. His message is still relevant today. We need to examine our lives see what we might need to do to prepare the way for Jesus to truly be the Lord of our lives. And we must try to prepare the way for others to get ready for Jesus also. Let’s get ready for Christmas, but let’s especially get ready for Jesus!