Getting ready for company is a great spiritual lesson for us. It is not just friends from your connection group coming over to hang out. This is company, which is much more formal. You know the situation; dinner is in a matter of hours, and you need to clean the house, make the food, set the table, and prepare yourself. Your guests will arrive soon, and you are preparing for them. The house looks cleaner than it tends to be. The dinner is better than it usually is. The kids are told to be nicer than they normally are. All because of the coming company. Well, what if the company we were expecting was Jesus? How do we prepare for that?
Advent is a season for Christians to be asking that question. Advent simply means the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event. For us, it is the arrival of Christ, both at his birth and also the anticipation of his imminent return. In Advent, we are reminded of the faithfulness of Christ’s coming. We remember the eager waiting for His first arrival and how He was faithful to come as He promised to rescue us from our sins. And our excitement is stirred as we await His return to bring justice and make all things new. It is a special time of the year, but one we must be careful not to waste.
As the calendared celebration goes, it starts with the fourth Sunday before Christmas. This year, Advent starts on December 3. But how do we not just go through these weeks overly focused on Christmas shopping, decorating, and family gatherings and miss what it is all about? How can this Advent season be a season that reignites our passion for His second coming? How do we actually prepare for His coming?
John the Baptist shows us the answer to that question. John came before Jesus to “prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.” Or, in other words, that His path to us would not be a winding, confusing path but a straight, direct path. Preparing the way of the Lord for John was about helping people receive him when he came. So, how exactly did John do that?
1) John called people to repent.
And the crowds asked him, “What then shall we do?” And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.” Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Collect no more than you are authorized to do.” Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages” (Luke 3:10-14).
2) John spoke of Jesus.
John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Luke 3:16).
3) John warned people of the reality of Judgement.
His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire” (Luke 3:17).
4) John proclaimed the good news.
So with many other exhortations he preached good news to the people (Luke 3:18).
The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)
This is what it looks like to prepare for the coming of Christ. Personal repentance and gospel proclamation. Striving personally to be ready and presentable to our King. Like a bride prepared for her groom, pure and holy. Proclaiming the gospel - the good news that in Christ Jesus, God is not counting our trespasses against us. Imploring others to be reconciled to God, like a good ambassador. We do this because we understand the reality of judgment and believe in His return. We do this because we see Him as good and faithful.
Advent is a season for Christians to reinforce this lifestyle, knowing many may have unintentionally drifted into complacency and comfort in this world. Where the Second Coming of Christ has become a distant thought behind kids' activities, work projects, and favorite shows. Advent tells us not to sleep on the coming of Christ. He has come before, and He will come again. Advent is a yearly wake-up call to the faithfulness of His coming and our call to prepare the way.
So, where do you need to do some personal repentance in this Advent season? Has greed become you, and you need to turn to generosity? Has selfishness laid hold of you, and you need to die to yourself? Have pleasures of this world captivated you, and you need to turn to the kingdom to come? At His return, what would you be ashamed of? Turn from it now, be ready for His coming.
How can you proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ this Advent season? Where do you need to be bold where you have been afraid? Is there a friend you should invite to church? Is there a family member you need to have a gospel conversation with? Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his path to others in your life.
As we wait for the Lord’s return, may our lives be marked by personal repentance and gospel proclamation. That at His return, we would hear, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’