“A Prophet Is Sent to Prepare the Way for the Messiah”
Malachi 3:1-7A and Luke 1:67-79
There are many times in our lives when we are not prepared to accept the new thing that God is doing in our lives. We are not prepared to embrace the change that God is about to bring to our lives.
Yet, in the midst of our human uncertainty, God is faithful. The promises of God are always ‘Yes’ and ‘Amen.’ Many times, however, we are not prepared for what God has for us and God must prepare us for what is going to happen. The work of God’s Spirit to prepare our hearts for the coming of the Messiah is what Advent is all about. Advent reminds us that even though we may not be prepared for what God is doing in our lives, that God is there to help us embrace the new thing that God is doing with confidence and peace.
In the scripture, John the Baptist is the one who prepares the way for the coming of Jesus. John prepares the way for God’s Messiah. In our lives today, it is the Holy Spirit who prepares us to face the future with hope, and at times the Spirit uses the circumstances of our lives and the people around us to prepare us.
The point is that just as God sent John the Baptist to prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah, so God prepares our hearts for the new things that God is about in our lives.
We begin with the words of Malachi, an Old Testament prophet.
The prophet Malachi tells the people that God is sending a messenger to prepare the way for the Lord’s coming. God comes when we least expect it. Yet before God comes to us, there is a time of preparation and waiting.
The prophet describes God’s messenger as a refiner’s fire or as fuller’s soap. The messenger calls the people to places of repentance.
The reality is that none of us is prepared to face the presence of God. As human beings we are consumed by the things of the world. God’s messenger calls us to places of repentance. God’s desire is to refine us and make us ready to stand before the almighty presence of God.
This is God’s desire for us today. In II Chronicles 7:14 the scripture says it this way: “If my people, who are called by my name, humble themselves, pray, seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
As God comes to live among us, it is God’s desire that we be a pleasing aroma of righteousness before him. It is not God’s desire to pour judgment out upon his people. God desires a time of refreshment and peace. The purpose of the prophet is to get God’s people prepared to meet him.
As Malachi speaks God’s Word, he reminds the people of what God expects of them. They cannot expect to come with JOY into the presence of God when their lives are filled with all kinds of evil deeds: sorcery, adultery, lying, and injustice. Those who use human power to oppress their workers will be judged. Those who have no compassion on the widow, the orphan, and the alien foreigner are not living their lives as God would have them live. God desires a people who stand in awe of God’s Word. Those who have no holy fear of God and do what seems right in their own eyes, will not stand in God’s presence.
God’s desire has been his intention since the beginning of time. God desires that his people turn back to him. We should not be surprised at what God expects of us because God is the same yesterday, today and forever. The scriptures are filled with stories of God’s desire for his people to come back to him. “Return to me, and I will return to you,” is God’s cry in the book of Malachi.
As followers of Jesus Christ, we believe that John the Baptist is the messenger that God sent to prepare the people for the gift of the Messiah. In a prophecy inspired by the Holy Spirit, the father of John the Baptist speaks about the Lord’s impending presence. Zechariah’s son, John, will be the one who prepares the way for the coming of the Messiah.
As God prepares to come near planet earth, God’s people must be prepared. The incarnation is to be a time of blessing and hope. From the house of David, God will raise up a Savior for the people. God’s promise to Abraham is about to be fulfilled. It is a great and glorious day.
Zechariah is involved because his son, John, will be the one that God has chosen to prepare the way for the Lord. God is doing a new thing and the way for the coming of the Messiah must be paved with glory. John’s message is one of repentance. Forgiveness will be the end result. With love and conviction John calls the people to repent: “Turn from your wicked ways,” John cries. “God’s mercy is about the break out upon you! Reorder your lives according to God’s Word. Come to God with haste and you will be forgiven!”
Baptism is a sign of this new found readiness to stand with confidence before the throne of grace. As John calls the people to repent, he begins to prepare their hearts for the coming of Jesus. The light of God’s love is about to shine around them and all with ears to hear should prepare their hearts for God’s coming. A new day of hope is coming. The light of God’s love will outlast the darkness and usher in a new day of peace.
This is the Advent call we are to hear in today’s world. Just as John the Baptist called the people of his day to places of repentance, so God’s Spirit calls us to places of heartfelt turning to God. It’s not that the Messiah is about to be born and we need to make preparation, but that the Messiah has already been born and is ready to come again in glory. We need to prepare ourselves for Jesus’ coming. This is the message of Advent.
With a voice of conviction John the Baptist cries out, “Come home! Come back to God! Put your trust in God alone. God is coming near!”
These are God’s words for us in today’s world: “Awake from your sleep. The time is near. Put your hope in God and in God’s Son Jesus.” Advent call us to a time of Godly repentance, nothing else will do.
The time of Christ’s coming is drawing near. As the world and even the church slumbers, we hear the voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Repent! The kingdom of all the heavens is at hand.”
Advent waiting that involves all that our hearts, minds and strength can give us is the heart of the Advent message.
God’s new day is coming!
Prepare the way of the Lord!