Prepare the Way

Second Sunday of Advent | December 8, 2019

Isaiah 11:1-10 • Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19 • Romans 15:4-13 • Matthew 3:1-12

In those days John the Baptist came to the Judean wilderness and began preaching. His message was, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.” The prophet Isaiah was speaking about John when he said,

“He is a voice shouting in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord’s coming!
    Clear the road for him!’”

John’s clothes were woven from coarse camel hair, and he wore a leather belt around his waist. For food he ate locusts and wild honey. People from Jerusalem and from all of Judea and all over the Jordan Valley went out to see and hear John. And when they confessed their sins, he baptized them in the Jordan River.

But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming to watch him baptize, he denounced them. “You brood of snakes!” he exclaimed. “Who warned you to flee the coming wrath? Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God. Don’t just say to each other, ‘We’re safe, for we are descendants of Abraham.’ That means nothing, for I tell you, God can create children of Abraham from these very stones. 10 Even now the ax of God’s judgment is poised, ready to sever the roots of the trees. Yes, every tree that does not produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire.

11 “I baptize with water those who repent of their sins and turn to God. But someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not worthy even to be his slave and carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 12 He is ready to separate the chaff from the wheat with his winnowing fork. Then he will clean up the threshing area, gathering the wheat into his barn but burning the chaff with never-ending fire.”

Matthew 3:1-12 New Living Translation (NLT)

Again this week’s gospel reading is not what you would expect if you are not familiar with traditional advent readings. Matthew is telling us about John the Baptist. You may remember that John the Baptist was born before Jesus. He was Jesus’ cousin. John was the forerunner to Jesus and was preparing the way for Jesus’ arrival. These verses come right before Jesus would ask John to baptize him. John’s message is one of judgment. Judgment isn’t something that we think of during Advent. Matthew records John’s words:

Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.

Matthew 3:2

Matthew tells us that the prophet Isaiah’s words written in Isaiah 40 were about John. In many ways, John the Baptist was a construction worker. I love watching construction crews build new roads. Today’s roads aren’t nearly as hilly or curvy as in year’s gone by.

If you’ve ever traveled through Virginia on some of the arterial highways such as US 58, US 220, US 29, you will notice that when they made the highways 4 lanes, they simply added a second set of lanes. The new lanes are straighter and less hilly. The picture below is a mild example of what I am talking about.

The season of Advent is a season of preparation. We prepare the way for arrival of Jesus, much like John the Baptist prepared the people for the arrival of Jesus on the scene.

John reminds the people that they must be ready for the coming of the Kingdom that Jesus has promised. In a similar way, we must be ready for the coming of Jesus’ Kingdom. John told people to repent. He used bold words, because they were thinking that they were safe. They thought because Abraham was their ancestor they were safe. There are many who think they are safe because they do the right things…because they were born into the right family. These things don’t make us safe. God wants those who follow Him – ones who obey his will. That is the kind of fruit that God desires. If we don’t produce good fruit, we will be cut-off.

As believers in Christ, we are commanded to produce good fruit. We are to love God with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength. We are to love our neighbors as ourselves. We are to take up our cross and follow Jesus. We are called to be obedient – to follow the commandments of Jesus. Let’s go out and do that as we prepare our hearts for the arrival of Jesus.

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