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Prepare ye the way for the Lord

Matthew 3:3

Pastor James F. Wright

Second Sunday in Advent
St John Lutheran Church  
Champaign, IL

Sun, Dec 9, 2001 

Matthew 3:3 "Prepare the way of the Lord.  Make his paths straight."

I would like to introduce you to Mr. Advent.  He has long hair and a beard.  His clothes are like nothing you've seen before.  His shirt is made out of camel's hair.  He made it himself.  He wears a big leather belt.  For food he eats grasshoppers with honey on top.  Mr. Advent is clean.  He goes swimming with his friends in the river every day.  Many friends he has.  They come out to the desert to listen to him preach.  "Prepare the way of the Lord," he would say.  "Make his paths straight."

Mr. Advent's real name is John.  We call him John the Baptist.  He lived a long time ago but his sermon is for us today.  He urges us to get ready for the coming of the Lord God.

They said John was another Elijah.  To people in Bible times, Elijah was to them like Abraham Lincoln is to us.  Elijah went before Elisha in the line of Old Testament prophets.  In the same way, John went before Jesus.  They preached the same message.  "Prepare the way for the Lord to come to you."  John pointed to Jesus, and Jesus pointed to himself.  He said the kingdom of God is near.  Jesus brought that kingdom to us when he died to purchase our forgiveness.  He brought us into that kingdom when he sent the Holy Spirit to baptize us.

John said, "I baptize you with water, but the one who comes after me will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire."  That came true on the day of Pentecost.  It comes true again whenever someone is baptized in the name of Jesus, be they man, woman, or child.  The power of God comes to us to wash us clan and prepare us to meet Jesus, who is God himself.

Preparing the way for God in the time of his advent is really not about putting up decorations, buying and giving presents, and going to parties.  Preparing the way for the Lord to come to you is about keeping ourselves dedicated to the God who loves us.  It's about staying away from the things that lead us into sin.  God washes away our sins, and he wants us to stay clean.  I once knew a lady with many children.  They always came to the early service on Sunday morning.  She said it was easier to get the children into clean clothes in the morning and take them off to church than it was to wait around the house until the late service when the kids would get themselves dirty before they got to church.

Advent is about getting ourselves ready to meet God.  It's about waiting for him in a productive way.  When you are waiting for something to happen, it's a challenge to keep your mind clear and not off the track.  When we wait for the Lord to come to us, he asks us not to think of ourselves as deserving of God's blessings.  Instead, we look to his graciousness for accepting us as we are.  God doesn't need people who think they are so good they deserve to be blessed by the Lord.  He can make people like that out of rocks.  He wants people who know how wonderful he is to forgive them.  We are unworthy of God's blessing, but he gives it to us anyway.  That's being ready to meet the Lord.

John's call to repent and be baptized is a call to us also. Baptized Christians are to live baptismally.  Baptism is not like fire insurance you buy for your children in case there really is a place called hell.  People sometimes baptize their children and then ignore spiritual teaching for their children.  Then they are surprised when the kids don't want to go to church, don't obey their parents, and get involved in all kinds of evil.  God wants us all to live in our baptism.  This means he wants us to stay close to him every day of our lives.  John says the way to do this is to repent of who we are and the evil things we think and do.  He says to take our sins seriously, and prepare for the Lord to come to us.

When your in-laws come to visit for the holidays, you better clean up the house.  It's okay to have a mess when they leave, but the minute they step in the door, you want a place for everything and everything in its place.  So husbands, be warned.  Hang up your pants and put away those dirty socks.  Your mother-in-law is going to be pleased.

Christians cannot hang on to their sinful behavior and invite the Lord to come to them.  The two cannot reside in the same house.  Either we belong to the Lord or we do not.  We cannot belong to the Lord and continue to live an immoral life.  John tells us to make straight the path for the Lord to come to us.

A straight path is a heart that is fully given to God's way.  God's way is our way.  We want to follow God.  We want to live by his commandments.  We want to follow his Word in everything.

When we find that God's way is not the way we want to go, we have a problem.  We have set up a detour that we are asking God to go around in order to come to us.  Maybe it's our pride.  We are too proud of ourselves to admit our sin.

Maybe it's our love.  We love God, but we love something else just as much.  God asks us to choose which thing we love more, Him, or the other things.  God asked the same thing of Abraham when he told him to sacrifice his only son.  Which do you love more, Abraham, Isaac or me?  Abraham chose God and was blessed to keep Isaac as well.

We are afraid to trust Christ with everything.  Whatever the detour is, the road must be straightened.  God will take no detours.  He is coming to us, and when he does, it will not go well for those who have not prepared.  They will be sent away to punishment.

But to everyone who hears the voice of the Lord crying out in this wilderness we call life, and who answer him, "Yes, Lord.  Here I am.  Come over here," he will come to them and bless them.  He forgives them completely and loves them as if they had never sinned at all.  We are in the wilderness here in this world, and Jesus is calling to us today, "Prepare the way for me to come to you."

Jesus our king comes to us every day.  Whenever we hear his word proclaimed to us in the way he gave it to be taught, there he is as well.  Whenever we call on his name, he answers us.  Whenever we reach back to our baptism, where God made us nothing and he became our everything, putting his very name upon us and calling us his own, Father Son and Holy Spirit, he is with us.  So we are never alone.

Get ready for Jesus to come to you.  Prepare his road.  Make the way to him straight.  Get rid of anything that you would feel uncomfortable holding on to if you were standing there with Jesus.

Want to have the best Christmas ever this year?  Take God at his word.  Take a look at yourself and see how much you need the forgiveness that Jesus has won for you.  Rejoice in it.  Then by the power of the Holy Spirit, begin to make the changes in your life that need to be made.  Get your heart ready for Jesus to come into it.

John's head was chopped off and placed on a platter.  His body was buried in a grave.  But his voice is still heard today.  Prepare the way for the Lord. Make his path straight.  Amen.

Copyright 1998-2011 James F. Wright. All rights reserved.

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