I don’t know about you but a lot goes in to preparing for Christmas. Before we left for Thanksgiving I made my annual trek out to storage and brought in the two artificial pre-lit trees, the christmas ornament organizer, and boxes and boxes of Amy’s various decorations that will soon take over the house. I also pulled out my strands of beautifully blue-hinted LED outdoor Christmas lights which are attached to a timer that automagically turns on the lights at dark and runs them for six hours. I like going to bed with the glow of Christmas coming in from the windows.
Before Jesus was born at Christmas over 2,000 years ago, his people had to get ready. God sent them the prophet Malachi who reminded them that God was going to keep His promise and one day would send His messenger to help them prepare.
“Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts.” (Malachi 3:1 ESV)
When Malachi writes that God’s messenger will “prepare the way” it literally means “to clear a path.” In the ancient world, a herald would often go ahead of the king and announce his coming ahead of time-so that the people might make themselves ready. Can you hear the herald? “Make way! The King is Coming!” The prophecy of a messenger heralding the coming Messiah would be fulfilled 400 years later in John the Baptist, as Mark 1:3 describes as the voice of one crying in the wilderness who would herald: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,”
How did John the Baptist prepare the way for Jesus to come? I believe there were three ways in which John prepared the way for Christ:
1. He taught a message of repentance. When he preached he called the people to repent of their sins. If we are to ready our hearts or our homes for Christ, we must first repent of our sins.
2. He pointed people toward Christ, not himself. He could have easily been interested in building his own kingdom here, his own “ministry” or business. Though he did have his own disciples, he pointed people to the Messiah. Likewise, we can help prepare the way for Christmas by pointing people to Christ! We can make Christmas about so many other things, when He is the real reason that we celebrate.
3. He had an attitude of humility. John would so esteem Jesus that he would be quoted as saying, “the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie” (Luke 3:16 ESV). The ancient practice of footwashing was performed by the lowest servant of member of the host family. John was in essence saying that he wasn’t even worthy enough to be the lowest servant of Jesus. In a world filled with arrogance, hubris, and pride, a healthy dose of humility is what sets our Savior apart. We can truly prepare for Christmas this year when we recognize that He is God and we are not. When we put Christ in the proper place in our lives–first, where He belongs, we will be ready and prepared to celebrate Christmas this year.
Though I hope that you go all-out this year, with decorations, presents, parties, and food. I hope that while you are spending the next few weeks preparing for Christmas that you will take a moment and make sure that spiritually you are ready to worship the King of kings and Lord of lords.