Today is December 4th. Only short while until to Christmas. Are you ready for Christmas? We are busy preparing for Christmas. Putting decorations, setting up the Christmas tree, buying gifts for each other… The church is busy preparing for Christmas. Decorations, Choirs practices, Christmas parties, outreach potlucks… Busy! Busy! Preparing for Christmas
In the Christian Calendar, we call this time the Advent – the period beginning four Sundays before Christmas to prepare for the coming of Christ. Advent means coming. Therefore today, it should be the third Sunday of Advent, next to the last Sunday before Christmas.
Traditionally there are four candles and you light one candle on each Advent Sunday and read scriptures accordingly to prepare yourself for the coming of Christ. For example, today the Scripture readings are from Isa 35:1-6, 10; Psalm 146 the first Halleluiah psalm; James 5:7-10; and Matthew 11:2-11 on John the Baptist. So today I picked John the Baptist for today’s sermon.
We all know Jesus was not born on Dec 25. December would be too cold for “the shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over the flock by night.” Luke 2:8. We really do not know Jesus’ birthday. But we start the Christian Year with the Advent. The first Sunday of Advent is the beginning of the Christian Year. We start the year preparing for the coming of Christ, which is to come, the second coming, instead of a memorial for the first coming of Christ. Advent is not just looking forward to what happened 2,000 years ago, the birth of Christ. It also looks forward in preparation of the coming of Christ again.
In the new year, what should I do to prepare for the coming of Christ? What do I do today in eager anticipation of the coming of Christ?
What do we do to prepare for the coming of Christ as a spiritual body of Christ?
The second coming of Christ will be no shepherds, no wise men, no manger. Jesus will come again as the king of kings and lord of lords. He comes to rule over the world. His kingdom will be everlasting.
The word, Christmas, is never in the Bible. In all four Gospels, Christmas is “the beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ” (Mark 1:1). Matthew has the wise men from the east. The Gospel of Luke has the shepherds in the field. In all four gospels, there is only one thing in common in the Nativity Story, the coming of Christ. It is the call of John the Baptist to prepare for the coming of Christ. His voice from the wilderness calling us to be prepared is how all four gospels want us to begin the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Matthew 3:3 Make ready the way of the LORD.
Mark 1:3 Make ready the way of the LORD.
Luke 3:4 Make ready the way of the LORD.
John 1:23 Make ready the way of the LORD.
In fact, Mark and John only has John the Baptist in the beginning. There is no baby Jesus, no Mary and Joseph, only JB and his voice, “Prepare! Prepare! Make ready the way of the LORD.”
Mark did not skip the beginning. He said in Mark 1:1 that this is “the beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” The first thing in the Gospel of Christ is to be prepared. The emphasis in the beginning is that you need to prepare. This emphasis is in all four Gospels.
Of course, the call to “Make ready the way of the LORD” is from two OT passages:
1. Mal 3:1 “I will send my messenger to prepare the way for me.”
2. Isa 40:3 “Prepare the way of the LORD. Make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
The two OT texts are not just prophecy about coming of the JB. It is a call to the people of God to prepare for the coming of the LORD. When the Son of God comes, we are to prepare for His way.
At Jesus’ first coming, JB came to prepare the way. “I am no the one you are waiting for. I am not Christ. I am here to prepare for you the coming of Christ.” And all the people came out to the Jordan River to hear him.
The voice in the wilderness. “Prepare for the way of the LORD”. The use of the word, “the way” twice in Mark 1:2-3 calls attention to this important Markan motif of the “Way”.
This is Jesus Way, the way he would walk, the way he would call his disciples to follow. Jesus Way is the journey of discipleship. To follow Jesus is to follow the Way. Now in Advent, let us prepare for the Way of the LORD, to prepare to follow Christ.
Are you ready for Christmas? Are you prepared for His Way? Are you prepared to follow Jesus? That is the message of JB. He also tells us how. How do we prepare for His coming and follow him? Two things:
“4 John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” JB is calling people to repent in preparation of the coming of Christ.
Repentance, metania, points to the call for a “reorientation to the way of life in Christ.” This is a call to a new life, a life of discipleship involving drastic life change.
The call is not to the non-Christians but to the people of God. The Jews who know God. The call to prepare for his coming is for us, the people of God. To prepare for his coming by repentance.
What is repentance? We already know God. What else is there for us to do? Luke 3:10-14.
a. To the crowds. What shall we do in preparing for the coming of Christ?
The man who has 2 tunics is to share with him who has none. And he who has food is to share likewise.
Clothe and food are the most basic need of life. Repentance in order to prepare for the way of Christ is to share with those who do not have clothe or food. You don’t need to have a lot. If you have 2 tunics, you can share. If you have food, you can share. The sharing is voluntary and is never forced.
b. To some tax collectors: What shall we do in preparing for the coming of Christ?
Collect no more than what you have been ordered to. It is as simple as that. Don’t over charge taxes. Do your job right. He did not ask them to quit their job. The Jews hated the tax collectors partly because they worked for the Romans and mainly because they over charge. To repent is not to say a prayer and come to church only. To repent is to change the way you live. Collect no more than what you have been ordered to. That is how we prepare for Christmas. Change.
c. To some soldiers: What shall we do in preparing for the coming of Christ?
Do not ake money form anyone by force or accuse anyone falsely. Don’t abuse your position and power. Be content with your wages. Living according to the will of God.
JB did not ask the people to quit their jobs and go to seminary or go to the mission fields to serve. He calls them to change in our everyday life, at our work, and when we eat. We need to ask ourselves in the coming year, “What do I do to return to the will of God?” This is how we prepare for the coming of Christ. What do I need to do in repentance to wait for His coming? What do we need to do in repentance in waiting for His coming?
1) Look around you. Do you see anything we can share with those who have not? Is there any need you can meet here and now? Don’t just live for yourself.
The youth winter-get-away still needs a few young adults to take care of them. Do you have time to help?
The children are asked to share their toys with those who have not. Over 100 toys are collected in AWANA for Second Mile share a toy drive.
2) In your work, what do you do in returning to the will of God? Don’t cheat from your customers. Don’t over charge. Don’t bribe your way to get business done. Do your job right. Don’t cheat on your tests as a student.
3) As a family don’t overspend on gifts for yourselves. Learn to share with those who have not.
4) If you are a teacher, teach fairly. Don’t discriminate. If you are a doctor, don’t’ over prescribe medicine or procedures. If you are a mom, don’t be mean to your children. If you are a restaurant owner, don’t cheat on taxes. If you are a pastor, smile more.
During Advent, ask ourselves, in the coming year, what do I need to do to return to the will of God? Repent for the forgiveness of sin in preparation of the coming of Christ.
Advent is never about celebrating a birthday only. It is about a change of life in preparation of the coming of Christ.
The first time He came, he came in a manger with Herod wanting to kill him, the poor shepherds coming to see him, the magi coming from afar to worship him. The second time he comes, he will come to receive us to heavens. He will come to rule as king. His kingdom comes and His will be done. Are you ready for him? Are you prepared?