Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Since listening to DC Talk in High school and College days I have always been amused by their lyrics in the song Jesus Freak that describe John the Baptist.
John seemed a little different. He was out there…quite literally in the desert. He wore camel’s hair and ate locusts and honey. The Pharisees mocked him and abhorred him and were repulsed by him. His message was different. He baptized people. He called sinners to repentance. He angered the Pharisees and other authorities. But the people; the crowds kept going out to listen to him. They went because John was the forerunner of Christ.
What a strange message. Prepare the way for the Lord…by making paths straight and filling in valley’s and making mountains into plains, and the crooked straight, rough places level. One could imagine the people thinking he was strange. But the message was more than that. John called the people to prepare for the Messiah to come. Be Prepared!
What do you think of when you hear those words? Two things came to mind for me. The first is that these two words make up the Boy Scouts motto: Be Prepared. No matter the situation: be prepared. No matter what is going on around you: be prepared. Always be prepared. The second thing that came to mind was from the movie The Lion King. In it Scar plots to kill his brother and nephew to become king and has the song “Be Prepared” which goes along with his words to the hyenas
Those two different thoughts of being prepared go right along with John’s message. For John taught that the people should be prepared for whatever might happen by repenting of their sins and doing good works. John said
Do this by not cheating others. Do this by helping those around you. Do this by living in repentance. These words were appropriate for the people then and for us now. Dear baptized: repent and bear the fruits of repentance…good works that help your neighbor.
So in every situation of life…be prepared…by being repentant and serving others. In that way you are prepared for the coming of Christ.
But also, be prepared…for the birth and the death of The King. John certainly pointed the way and prepared the people for the coming of their Savior. He pointed to the Lamb of God that would take away the sin of the world. John knew that in preparing for the coming of the Messiah they were preparing for their Savior to die for them.
Behold the final sacrifice that bears the sins of not just one man but all men; behold the sacrifice that pays for the sins of all men and all time; behold the sacrifice provided by God himself. Jesus.
Dear Christians: be prepared. Be prepared for all that life throws at you. Be prepared for ridicule and hate. Be prepared for long and hard days of suffering from sinfulness. Be prepared for sickness and disease. Be prepared for heartache and mourning. Be prepared for the joy of eternal life. Be prepared for the day you’re reunited with all the Saints in heaven. Be prepared for the birth of your Savior. And be prepared for the death of The King and more than that the resurrection of your Lord. Be prepared.
How? John says repent and do good works. But how do we do that? Asking for forgiveness can be very hard. Helping others…especially those you don’t like…that’s really hard. So how can we be prepared for those things…let alone even harder things in this life?
Be prepared by being in God’s Word. Study Scripture. Attend Bible Studies. Listen to God’s Word proclaimed in worship. Be prepared by praying. Praying for others. Praying for yourselves. Praying for understanding and wisdom and patience, and perseverance, for guidance, for help. Be prepared by being baptized and receiving faith and the gift of the Holy Spirit who works in you. Be prepared by coming to God’s house and hearing God’s Word and receiving Jesus’ very body and blood which gives you forgiveness and strength as you gather with your brothers and sisters in Christ who love, pray, and support you even as they need your love, prayers, and support.
Be prepared by receiving. Receiving God’s gifts and blessings. And by taking those blessings and sharing them with others. Be prepared. It’s not easy being prepared. But God provides your preparation. It’s not easy being prepared but Jesus is always with you. And even when you don’t feel prepared or really aren’t prepared… Christ has paid for your sin, defeated death and the devil, and will carry you home. Truly Christ has prepared you…
Be prepared. By Baptism you are. With repentant hearts and expectant joy…love everyone Christ has placed in your life…even your enemies…and prepare for the birth of your King. Amen.
Now may the peace of God which passes all human understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. Amen.