It’s that time of year again. Many of us are pulling boxes out of closets and bins out of attics. Fragile decorations are placed carefully around the house and evergreen trees decorate the interior of our homes. Light strands are untangled and tested. Wreaths are dusted off and hung up proudly. Reds and greens are splashed everywhere. All in preparation for Christmas.
And that doesn’t include the presents. Stores are staked out and reconnoitered for the appropriate gifts. Websites are assaulted daily by frugal shoppers in search of the best deals. Gift wrap, ribbons, bows, bags, and tissue paper litter our floors and tables. The sound of tape tearing and scissors snipping fills the air as mundane boxes are transformed into beautiful packages. All in preparation for Christmas.
And did I mention the food? We mustn’t forget the food. Hams are glazed, turkeys are basted and potatoes are mashed. Gravy bubbles, casseroles steam and rolls rise in anticipation. And then there’s dessert. The mouth waters as it thinks of all the cookies, pies, fudge, and dare I say it, fruitcakes that will be baked. Kitchens will be filled with laughter just as sinks will be filled with the dishes that bear witness to the feast that will be enjoyed. All in preparation for Christmas.
And then there’s John the Baptist. Yes you heard me right. Don’t back-up and re-read the previous paragraphs. I didn’t forget to type a few transitional sentences. And, believe it or not, I didn’t jump tracks. If we are talking about preparations, we can’t neglect this wild preacher whose radical wardrobe of camel hair was rivaled only by his strange diet of locusts and wild honey. Yet he is described as a ‘voice in the wilderness,’ and as one who would go before the Messiah. One who would ‘prepare the way of the Lord.’ So he did. He went; he proclaimed; he prepared. His message was profoundly simple yet simply profound, and it only consisted of one word: ‘Repent!’
Repent. A change in direction. An about-face. When we hear this word we must be careful not to make the common mistake of thinking that the word merely means to stop doing something. It involves much more than stopping. It involves turning. Turning requires volition. Turning requires initiative. Turning requires a change in goals. No longer are we enticed by the worldly riches, but by Godly treasure. No longer do we face our self-serving motives and desires, but we face the glorification of God in our lives. Our feet no longer carry us away from God, but toward Him; toward His love; toward His grace; toward His plan for our lives.
This was John’s message to Jews awaiting the Messiah. It must be the Church’s message. If you want to see the Messiah, repent. If you want to see salvation, repent. If you want to see mercy, repent. As we prepare to celebrate His coming, let us not neglect our preparations for His second coming. We need to be a voice in the wilderness. We need to ‘prepare the way of the Lord.’ We need to proclaim the Good News. All in preparation for Christ.