Scripture: Matthew 3:1-12

In our Gospel reading today John the Baptist is calling the people to prepare.  John came out of the wilderness shouting, “Repent and prepare the way for the Lord.”  He is announcing the coming of a King.  In the ancient world when a king decided to visit a part of his kingdom he would send someone ahead of him to announce the coming of the king.  

This messenger would also instruct the people to prepare the roads and streets for the king’s arrival.  They should clean up the streets and fill in the potholes.  They wouldn’t want the King to remember them for the bumps in their roads.  The instruction to prepare the roads was a symbol for preparing their community for the visit of a king.  They were to make it look the best they could.  Be ready to receive the king with the best accommodations they could provide.

Certainly, the king that John was announcing wasn’t interested in inspecting their streets.  Jesus didn’t care if the streets had potholes.  John was saying straighten out your lives in preparation for God’s chosen King.  Make the way straight for him to enter into your lives.  Smooth out the places that would make his journey rough.  Be ready to accommodate the King of kings.  Repent and turn from your crooked ways and turn to God.

People were used to making their communities neat for a king.  They would decorate their houses and clean their streets.  They would prepare a place for the king to stay and supplies so he could eat well.  These were all material preparations for the coming of a king.  John was speaking of spiritual preparation.  John was saying make your lives neat for the King.

Are you ready for Christmas?  I am not talking about decorations and shopping.  I am talking about your hearts.  You may be materially ready.  You may have all the gifts bought.  You may have all the decorations up.  You may have mailed your Christmas cards.  You may even be emotionally ready.  But are you spiritually ready?

The Good News of Christmas is that Jesus came into the world to give us life and eternal joy.  Prophet Malachi and John the Baptist told the people to prepare for his arrival.  Just as they prepared for Jesus’ arrival, we need to prepare to celebrate this anniversary of his coming.  Even as we celebrate Christ’s coming we remember that he promised to come again.  Are we ready to receive Jesus the next time he comes?

John calls us to straighten out our lives.  To be spiritually ready to celebrate Christ’s coming we must straighten out our lives.  To make way for Christmas, to make way for Christ, we must prepare our hearts to receive him.  Otherwise when he arrives all the rooms will be taken by false idols.  And once again he will be left outside to find lodging with the humble beasts.

Where does your life need straightening out?  John came preaching a message of repentance.  “Repent” means to turn away from, to change direction.  To turn from sin, we must first recognize it.  Where is the sin on our lives?  Where do we fall short of living out God’s love?  Do we worship Christ in all that we say and do?  

If there is any way that we fail to love God and our neighbor, no matter how small, it is a sin.  It is blocking our spiritual preparations.  Once sin is recognized we must turn from it, but we can’t do that by ourselves.  We must acknowledge before God that we are sinners and seek help to turn from that sin.

Are you spiritually ready for Christmas?  Is your heart ready to receive a King?  Is your life presentable for the King of kings?  Look closely, we all have rough place that could be smoothed over and crooked ways that could use some straightening.  Smooth them out and straighten them up.  The King is coming!

Christmas is the celebration of the first coming of Christ.  It reminds us that he is coming again.  2,000 years ago, people awaited the Messiah and John told them to be ready.  We, who await the Messiah’s return, ought to notice his warning.  “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.  Repent and make your rough ways smooth.”

Are you ready?  Ready to celebrate Jesus coming?  Are you ready to receive Jesus when he comes again?  If not, you better get ready because the time for getting ready is short.  Make way for Christmas is coming!  Shalom and Amen!