2nd Sunday of Advent Year: B
Is 40.1-5, 9-11; Ps 84 (85); 2 Pet 3.8-14; Mk 1.1-8
Awakening Humanity President Jimmy Carter, Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin gathered in Camp David in 1978 to discuss peace. President Anwar Sadat approved the peace proposal but it was rejected by the Israeli Prime Minister Begin. There was a stalemate. The three, by now tired and emotionally drained, were about to depart without any peace accord. As President Carter and Prime Minister Begin were about to depart they remembered that they had earlier agreed to sign photographs for each other’s families. They met on the front porch of Prime Minister Begin’s cabin for the signing. President Carter asked for the name of the children to make the signing more personal and Prime Minister Begin reciprocated. Then President Carter decided to show the photographs of his grandchildren describing the personality of each; Prime Minister Begin did likewise. As they looked at the pictures tears filled their eyes. What type of world would their grandchildren grow up in? Prime Minister Begin returned to his cabin and re-emerged after five minutes asking to look at the peace proposal once again.
When given a chance to celebrate Holy Eucharist for children I usually give them some practical tips on how they need to prepare for exams. At times I try to dramatize saying that they need to take a pen or pencil and try to write the answers. This would certainly help them remember the matter well. If not, just learning the lessons, and going to write exams will have two fold weaknesses; one, that they would not remember everything that they studied because of their heavy dependence on the mind; second, they would lack speed to write. Hence, learning through writing is a better way to prepare for exams. When they write they see with their eyes what they have written and take to their mind and again recall when they come to their examination hall and try to write the answers which they had practiced. This would help them a good deal in their memory. Without preparation one would find oneself embarrassed and weak. Well, preparation is always a must for any sort of performance. Look at all the Olympic participants; they practice day in and day out for long years. They never give up. Preparation is not botheration; rather enjoyable looking at the glory they would earn in the long run. Prepare the Way If John lived today, the rulers would probably not cut his head off as Herod did. They would have had him diagnosed with some horrible sounding mental illness, taken to a mental hospital and put on drugs. Not that he was necessarily full blown crazy; he simply danced to a different beat than his society at large. “It is nice to have a well adjusted life,” said Martin Luther King Jr., “but there are some things to which men and women of good will should be maladjusted.” John had a solid grasp of God and the traditional myth of the Israelite people. God had a solid grasp on him. There is an important principle that we can learn from the story of John the Baptist. Even though our Bible seems to have little to say about John, he conveys to us a simple but important message that still applies today about preparation receive the Messiah and repent our sins. The Forerunner We are clearly told that John was sent to ‘prepare the way’ for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (Mark 1.23), but what exactly did he do in preparing the way? In Luke 3.3-4, we are told, “And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins; as it is written in the book of Isaiah the prophet, saying, “the voice of one crying in the wilderness, prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” Also in Matthew 3.1-3, “In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, and saying, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” So how did the people cooperate with John in preparing the way for Jesus? They confessed their sins and were baptized as a sign that they have turned from their sins, as Matthew 3.6 tells us, “And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.” This was a preparation that indicated that they were ready for the Messiah.
Make His Path Straight
It means to create a favorable environment or to make it easy for one to come to you and operate in your life. Let’s take a look at Luke 3.4-5, “As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, saying, the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth.” Apparently, John the Baptist was creating a favorable environment and making it easy for Jesus to enter into and operate in the lives of the people. Preaching and Repentance The same is true on the other side of the coin. Notice how John the Baptist prepared the way for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ through preaching repentance and baptism for the remission of sins. He created a favorable environment for Jesus to enter and operate in. The same principle is true on the other side of the coin, where people get involved in deep sins in order to gain evil powers. When people get involved in Satanism, they can commit gross sins such as bestiality (sex with children, animals, and sex with the same sex) in order to gain devils kingdom or making way for other demonic powers. Such sins defile a person and create a ‘favorable environment’ for the spirits to dwell and operate. Sin ‘prepares the way’ for the devil and his demons, while repentance and remission of sins prepares the way for the Lord!
How Can We Prepare the Way?
I believe the Lord gave me a beautiful revelation about how we can ‘prepare the way’ for the Lord in our own lives. John the Baptist was said to be sent fourth to prepare the way for Jesus, but what exactly did he do? He preached the repentance of sins and baptized people for the remissions of their sins. He was getting people ready for Jesus’ arrival by getting them to turn from their sins and repent! Hebrews 12.14 tells us, “...holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.” I believe a valuable point we can learn from this passage is that if there are un-confessed sins in our lives, they can hinder us from ‘seeing the Lord’. We need to repent of our sins and turn from them and receive forgiveness (1 John 1.9). By repentance of our sins, we ‘prepare the way’ for Jesus to operate in our lives! We certainly need to prepare for a healthy and happy life. Confessing Sins John tells us that if we confess our sins, we not only receive forgiveness for them (1 John 1.9), but they are washed and cleansed from us by the blood of the Lamb (1 John 1.7). They are removed as far from the east to the west (Psalms 103.12)! If we fail to acknowledge our sins, however, Proverbs 28.13 tells us that we will not prosper, “He that covers his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesses and forsakes them shall have mercy.”
Simply acknowledging our sins is not enough, as John clearly rebuked the Pharisees for not living up to their confessions (Mat 3.7-8). “But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming to be baptized, he denounced them. ‘You brood of snakes!’ he exclaimed. ‘Who warned you to flee God’s coming judgment? Prove by the way you live that you have really turned from your sins and turned to God”. Baptism and Repentance The teaching and practicing of water baptism and repentance never ceased when Jesus was glorified. After Jesus rose again, He appeared to His disciples and gave them the great commission to go fourth and preach the gospel to every creature (race, nation, etc.) and baptize them (Matthew 28.19). Water baptism and repentance was also preached and practiced in the early church as well, as we can see in Acts 2.38, “Then Peter said to them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Practical Conclusion The Bible doesn’t necessarily have a lot to say about John, but we do know this, he was sent fourth to prepare the way, and he did that by preaching the repentance and remission of the people’s sins. I believe that by confessing and turning from our sins, we can prepare the way for the Lord to move and operate in our lives as well.
A man woke up early in order to have his morning devotion (prayer) in the Lord’s house (church). He got dressed, set on his way to the Lord’s house. On his way to the church, the man fell and his clothes got dirty. He got up, brushed himself up, and headed home. At home, he changed his clothes, and was, again, on his way to the Lord’s house. On his way to the church, he fell again and at the same spot! He, again, got up, brushed himself off and headed home. At home he, once again, changed his clothes and was on his way to the Lord’s house. On his way to the church, he met a man holding a lamp. He asked the man of his identity and the man replied ‘I saw you fall twice on your way to the church, so I brought a lamp so I can light your way. The first man thanked him profusely and the two went on their way to the church. Once at the church, the first man asked the man with the lamp to come in and pray with him. The second man refused. The first man asked him a couple more times and, again, the answer was the same. The first man asked him why he did not wish to come in and pray. The man replied, ‘I am Satan’. The man was shocked at this reply. Satan went on to explain, ‘I saw you on your way to the Church and it was I who made you fall. When you went home, cleaned yourself and went back on our way to the church, God forgave all of your sins. I made you fall a second time, and even that did not encourage you to stay home, but rather, you went back on your way to Church. Because of that, God forgave all the sins of the people of your household. I was afraid if I made you fall one more time, then God will forgive the sins of the people of your village, so I made sure that you reached the house of God (Church) safely.’ Do not put off the good you intended to do as you never know how much reward you might receive from the hardships you encounter while trying to achieve that good. Your righteousness can save your family and nation at large. Practical Conclusion Have you seen a farmer tilling the ground, waiting for rain, cultivating and expecting a good crop? That is what we call Herculean patience. We all need to be like good farmers who have made patience a part of their life. Farmers never give up. They get up early, work hard in the sun and rain; they feel one with mother earth and they experience the joy of working at it. Have you seen a mother taking care of her baby? This also should make us learn a lesson. What an amount of patience, every moment of the day and night she will have to put up with the crying, falling, dirtying, etc. All is for the good of the child.