“But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth. For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mothers womb. And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before Him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” Luke 1:13-17
“Are you ready for Christmas?” is a question we often hear people ask at this time of year. And, what is meant by this question? Usually it has to do with being done with the Christmas shopping, having up the decorations, and having many goodies baked and prepared for family celebrations.
But a far more important question to consider is this: “Are you ready for Jesus’ coming?” Having His people be ready for Christ’s coming is indeed very important to the LORD God; for He mercifully delays the day of Christ’s return and judgment, not wanting any of us to perish but desiring that all of us repent of our sins and unbelief and receive forgiveness and life eternal through the sacrifice of the Son, Jesus Christ (cf. 2 Peter 3:9). But, we know that the Day of the Lord is coming!
This is why God sent John the Baptist into this world. He was to prepare God’s people for the coming of their Messiah and Savior, Jesus Christ. John, whose name itself means that the LORD is gracious, would be the prophet of God promised in Malachi 3:1 and 4:5-6. He would be filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb and would drink neither wine or strong drink (Num. 6:1ff.). He would “go before Him [the Messiah] in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” Like Elijah of old, John would boldly rebuke unbelief and sin and call upon God’s people to repent and trust in the coming Messiah and Savior (cf. 2 Kings 1:8; Matthew 3:1ff.; John 1:29ff.).
Whether young or old, John called upon all to repent and believe in Christ Jesus, baptizing them for the forgiveness of their sins. To be ready for the coming of the Christ, the fathers had to humble themselves and trust in the LORD God with child-like faith (cf. Matthew 18:1-4). And those who had been disobedient to the LORD needed to be converted to the wisdom of the just (those who humbly acknowledged and confessed their sins and received forgiveness in Christ Jesus (cf. 1 John 1:8ff.). In this way, John prepared the way for the coming of Christ.
But are we ready for Jesus’ coming? How can we prepare? By heeding the message of John the Baptist: by humbling ourselves before the LORD God, our Maker, and acknowledging and confessing our sin before Him; by trusting in the blood of Jesus, which was shed for us upon the cross, and receiving the forgiveness and life which Christ won for us and offers and gives to us through our Baptism; and by amending our sinful ways and seeking to live for Christ Jesus, who has redeemed us and who will soon return in glory to take all who trust in Him to the eternal joys of heaven (cf. 1 John 3:1-3)!
Dear LORD God, our Maker and Redeemer, prepare us for Christ’s coming by working in us true repentance, true sorrow over our sins and true faith in the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ! Grant this to us for the sake of Jesus, our Savior. Amen.
[Scripture quotations from the King James Version of the Bible]