Mark 1:1-4 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, "Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, who shall prepare thy way; the voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight -- " John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
I like hymns, and one of the hymns I especially like, "Jerusalem the Golden" is actually part of a much longer hymn, an earlier part of this hymn explains the longing for "Jerusalem the Golden" -
The world is very evil, The times are waxing late;
Be sober and keep vigil, The Judge is at the gate;
As bad as the world is, there is one thing it is often quite good at, and that is describing how bad things really are. So how bad is it? Not so very long ago, in the days of the western, there were heroes, but they were just ordinary men, the world was evil, and it took someone to stand up and set things right, but anyone could be a hero, if only they would stand up to the evil. These days we don't have heroes, there are cops, and they try to catch the bad guys, but there are always more bad guys waiting for their turn, itís a flood of evil, and its not getting any better. So if someone is going to set things right, it needs to be a super hero - its more than a normal man can do. So we are met with super human heroes, who have super human powers, who can do something about the great evil - and yet there is a desperation underneath it all, because it never ends, there is no happily ever after, just another vile villain next week who needs to be dealt with.
Its as though the world knows - The world is very evil, The times are waxing late; - but doesn't know what to do about it. Its funny how history keeps repeating itself, 2000 years ago, there were some people who believed - The world is very evil, The times are waxing late; - and so they removed themselves from society, and went to the desert to prepare themselves for the end. It was in that kind of time that John the Baptist appeared. John wasn't a super hero, he was a prophet, he had a message to bring to the world - Prepare the way, the Lord is coming, the Savior of the world is here.
People had been waiting a long time for the Messiah, they remembered the promise, they still had hope - but often it wasn't at the center of their life - there were a lot of people who thought it was good enough, just to live a good life - they wanted to forget that the wages of sin is death, they wanted to forget that they were all sinners, they wanted something they could do, so they could feel good about themselves and their lives. They didn't want to think that THEY needed a Savior, all they needed was someone to deal with those evil people, that would be enough.
And yet John didn't call evil people to repentance, he called all people to repentance, for he showed all people that they were sinners, and that everyone needed a savior. John showed people their sins, so that when Jesus came, they could see their Savior.
Prepare the way, its still the message of Advent, we see our sins, we repent, and we look forward in hope to the birth of the Savior, just as we look forward in hope to the promise of the Savior, Jerusalem the Golden, the place prepared for us in Heaven in Jesus name.