Matthew 3:1-3 In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, "The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight."
Most folks don’t understand John the Baptist nor his message. It sounds like one more thing they’ve got to do, and they’ve already got more things to do than they have time. There is no sense of urgency, for they do not understand the kingdom of God, nor do they understand the importance that it is near – and they might even think that it is unimportant, and really doesn’t matter – shopping, Christmas cards, and preparing for seasonal events – that with the normal mix of the activities of life is more than enough, and they say – I just don’t need any more, thanks anyway.
So where do you begin? Best place to begin is where John the Baptist points us, and so we turn to Isaiah 40:1-5 Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the LORD's hand double for all her sins. A voice cries: "In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken."
You see, the message of John the Baptist is not a message about what we have to do, but rather a message about what God has done. That's why people went out to John, not to hear someone who made them feel bad, they already felt bad, they already knew that their lives were out of control, they could already see their sin – the coming of the kingdom of God meant the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation that have come in Jesus Christ.
So what about us? Some people might say, my plan for my life is not going too bad, I don’t think I need God, he isn’t a priority. And they miss the point, for it is not just about a plan for your life, that is a nice benefit – to know that God’s plan never gives you more than you can handle – but it misses the point, for the point is the forgiveness of sins, and we are all lost and condemned sinners, and no amount of works can give us peace with God.
Overwhelmed by the guilt of our sins, we abandon ourselves into the hands of God, who, in love, catches us. That’s what faith is about, we trust the promise of God, and we fall into his hands and he catches us, forgives our sins, and lifts us up.
This is the hope of Advent, which is a hope that can guide our whole lives, and help us to prepare for Christmas, and help the world to prepare for the coming of the kingdom of God.