Advent Week 2: Prepare the Way!

This school year has been a doozy. While I normally keep a pretty clean house, and like to live a clutter-free life as much as possible, the parsonage has gotten quite out of hand over the last 5-6 months. This is perpetuated not only by our extreme busyness, but also by the fact that we have not regularly been having people over. No weekly book club or Bible study in the living room means that I will forsake cleaning in order to study or just relax for a bit.  However, if you are anything like me, whenever guests come over, you always gather the troops and ensure that the house is picked up and presentable.  Floors get mopped, cobwebs are removed, toilets are scrubbed, clean towels are hung.  In our house, this is never truer than when my mother is the guest who is arriving.

Having been trained to clean house by a woman whose cleaning prowess knows no rival, the very thought of my mother’s arrival can cause me to experience homemaker anxiety for months. When she is scheduled to come, the cleaning begins weeks in advance, with all necessary tasks carefully outlined on a list so that each item is checked off as it is completed. Furniture is moved and vacuumed, glass is polished, lightbulbs are dusted, the closets are emptied, cleaned, and restocked, bedsheet corners are sharp and crisp. . . it is an all out military exercise. Lord help me if my mother ever just “popped by” as a surprise. I’m sure I would faint dead away if I was not completely prepared for her arrival.

As we look toward the 2nd Sunday of Advent, I am reminded of the teaching of John the Baptizer when he proclaimed to all of Jerusalem: “Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him” (Luke 3.4).  John was the human herald of Messiah’s earthly ministry. But hold up just a tick!  The message “prepare the way for the Lord” goes back way, way, way before that!

As we discussed in last week’s meditation, the Old Testament is filled with information about the coming Messiah. Hundreds and sometimes thousands of years before the Christ child was born in Bethlehem, God was telling us to get ready for His arrival. We could spend hours going over the Old Testament prophecies about Christ’s coming, but let’s focus on what God did in those last few months on earth before Jesus was born. Let’s zoom in on the Scripture that tells us about the virgin Mary’s cousin, Elizabeth, who was pregnant at the same time as Mary.  Elizabeth’s child, John, was born just before Jesus. Even before Elizabeth became pregnant, an angel announced to her husband that their child would be named John and that he had a very specific assignment.

 Read Luke 1.5-25, and also Luke 1.57-80, and Luke 3.1-20

God was “preparing the way” for the Messiah well in advance of his arrival. Without the anxiety that I experience in anticipation of my mother’s visit, God set out a plan to ensure that the world was as prepared as possible for the arrival of the Son. It is beautiful to me that God provided a prophet within Jesus’ lifetime to preach of His coming ministry long before he began. John was preaching that the Savior was coming, and he was baptizing those people who repented of their sins. In a sense, John was the person who was cleaning the house; preparing for the arrival of Messiah.

John’s life was set apart to prepare the house for Jesus’ arrival. His entire life was spent focused on this single purpose.

We too, are to be preparing a place for Christ in our lives. All too often, our relationship with Jesus seems to be relegated to an hour and a half on Sunday morning, maybe a quick prayer if we find ourselves worried or in need of something, and if we’re really lucky, we’ll incorporate a little worship music, a bit of Scripture, or something else spiritual into our day. But mostly, many of us tend to not give much thought to preparing our day FOR GOD.  What part of our lives we give to God is often whatever happens to cross our minds in the moment, but it is rarely something for which we prepare ourselves.  Said another way, our relationship with God rarely contains sacred and set-apart time when we spend time alone with Him, seeking His will for us that day.

As we meditate on John’s message, “Prepare the way for the Lord!” this week, consider these thoughts and questions, and come up with a plan to incorporate purposeful, sacred time with your Savior into your daily life.

  1.  As we “prepare the way for the Lord” this Christmas season, what does Christ’s incarnation mean to you personally?
  2. Do you relate to your Savior as both God and Brother? As King and the Lamb who bore your sins? As both all powerful and lowly? As both eternal, and the One who died to give you life? Remembering the significance He has in our eternal lives can help us with ongoing gratitude and humility, which in turn helps us to give Him proper place in our daily lives.
  3. Do you let life’s busyness get in the way of having sacred time with the Jesus each day?
  4. Are you willing to make time each day to have sacred time that is reserved exclusively for reading Scripture, prayer, and listening for the Lord’s leading?
    • If so, write out a plan – prepare yourself for the Lord by scheduling time each day that is reserved exclusively for you and Him.
    • Some of us benefit from having a person we are accountable to as we begin developing a new habit. Perhaps you would consider partnering with another person who would also like to have sacred time each day. Together you can help each other be accountable for preparing the way for this new practice.
    • Do you have children in the house? Beginning a sacred time habit with them is precious and biblical. Find a bedtime story to read from the Bible each night, or begin dinner with a Bible reading and prayer, then spend time talking about the Scripture while you eat. Modeling spiritual life is an important part of being an adults or parent in a child’s life.

Obedience – a natural response to sacrificial love

One of my favorite passages in the Bible is the one that talks about wives obeying their husbands in Ephesians 5. In my single days such an ordinance was offensive to my very independent ears. “Me, obey a man! Yeah, right!” It made me LOL before “LOL” was even a thing. However, in the beautiful context this passage is written, I understand the depth of meaning behind it. I am to submit to my husband the way the Church submits to Jesus. In the same breath, my husband is to sacrifice himself for me the way Jesus sacrificed himself for the Church. It’s a circle of loving submission:  Jesus for the Church, the Church to Jesus // Andrew for me, me to Andrew.

Obedience is quite simple when we are asked to obey someone who loves us beyond measure, and when that person has sacrificed everything for us. For example, submitting to Andrew is simple for me, because he almost always has my best life in mind when he makes decisions. His decisions are rarely selfish; they are intended to lift me up and keep me from harm. In turn, if he ever asks anything of me, his love for me assures me that obedience is safe and for my best life. Andrew’s love is great, but it’s not comparable to Christ’s love for me.

When Christ asks us for obedience, his expectation always comes from a depth of love that is incomprehensible. Sometimes it is hard to trust that obedience to God’s commands is the best choice, especially when our selfishness and brokenness want so desperately to make the decisions for us. But what we are quick to dismiss is how it is always disobedience to God that gets us into trouble, and that we cry to him when we suffer the natural consequences for the poor choices we made that were in clear defiance of his commands. When we disobey, we are effectively telling God, “I know what you say, but I don’t care, I know what is best for me.”

All of God’s commands are in place for our good, for our protection, for our ability to live our best lives—they are given out of sacrificial love. Maybe if remember that our obedience is to the One who loves us more than we love ourselves, it will help us keep obedience in perspective!