New Testament Lesson Luke 3:1-6
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler[a] of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler[b] of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler[c] of Abilene,
When my wife and I learned that we were going to have a child, we were very excited and we enrolled in Lamaze classes.
These were classes to prepare both of us for the experience of child birth. I have to say that while it is not unusual for the father to be present in the delivery room when the child is born, when my son was born, that was cutting edge stuff.
I told my father about our plans and he pulled me aside.
“Oh son,” he said, “you don’t want to do that. When you were born, you were delivered in the hospital, but when your older sister was born, children were born at home. It was me and the doctor and we were all alone with your mother. She was in such pain. She scratched my arms something terrible. And your sister – let me tell you. She may have later been first runner up in the Miss South Carolina beauty padgeant, but when she came out into the world she was the ugliest thing I had ever seen. She was all slimy and hairy. It was awful. It gave me nightmares for weeks. And by the way, don’t you ever tell you sister about this.”
So of course, I couldn’t wait to call my sister.
She laughed and said Mom had told her all about that years ago.
My Dad was not prepared for the birth process.
In my day we took classes. Now --- there’s Youtube.
Preparation – it can make all the difference.
Preparation, whether for childbirth, or a test in school, or marriage, or investing for retirement is often the difference between success and failure.
And so we come to the New Testament lesson for today and we read the words describing the preaching of John the Baptist, as he used the words of the Old Testament prophet Isaiah - “Prepare the way of the Lord…”
It is important.
In ancient times, when a king was going to visit a city, he would send before him someone to herald his coming. It was this person’s job to announce the coming of the king and to make sure the city was prepared.
This herald would go around the city. He would inspect the city and give instruction on preparing the roads, sprucing up the buildings, and making sure everything was clean. He would meet with the leaders of the community and help them to know what to do. The city career criminals would be rounded up and locked up for safe keeping, guilty or not.
This is not just in ancient times – when the President of the
comes to town, there are changes in air traffic as well as on the
Interstate. Media teams go to work. Security escalates. Everyone wants a photo op with the
President. Secret Service and FBI work
hard to see who might be a threat. United States
When John the Baptist used these words, he applied them to the first coming of Jesus as the Messiah and called on people to repent and be baptized and to start a new life.
But it occurs to me that this Word of God is, for us today, more than a reflection on the history of John the Baptist. It is a call for us to give thought to how we might intentionally and carefully prepare for the celebration of Christ’s birth.
This is our second Sunday of Advent and this season is such a great gift to us.
The four weeks of Advent are the four weeks that lead to Christmas, and Advent Season proclaims a time of preparation for the coming of Christ at Christmas.
In a sense, most of us are pretty good at preparing for Christmas.
We have a place we buy our tree, or in the garage or attic for the artificial one.
There is a rhythm and plan to our preparations.
Ornaments, wreaths, the usual parties, gifts, Christmas Eve at the church, we know how it works.
It may be stressful, but we know how we want to proceed.
Comedian Mona Crane said there are three ways to prepare to get something done:
Do it yourself,
or forbid your kids to do it.
We know how to get things ready for Christmas.
But getting ready for Christmas is not the same as getting spiritually ready to celebrate the birth of Christ.
But how do we prepare for Jesus?
How do we make ready to have Jesus speak to our hearts and minds?
John ends his quote from Isaiah with the words, “and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”
And that’s the thing. That is the real question. Are people able to see the salvation of God when they look at us?
It is easy to put up a Christmas wreath on the door, and people see that – but do they see the love of God when they look at us.
It is easy to put up the Christmas tree, and people coming into our homes can see that tree, but do people look at us and see the acceptance of Christ in how we live? Or hear those words of acceptance as they listen to what we say?
A concern for “the least of these”?
If we want people to see Jesus this Christmas season, they have to find Him in you and me.
These things that help people see the salvation of God in us do not come by accident. They have to be practiced. They have to be put into our lives intentionally by our decisions to live our love, peace and sacrifice.
There’s an old story about golf champion Ben Hogan. He was a great golfer a long time ago. I saw him the one and only time I went to the Masters in
which was in 1965, and by then he was at the end of his long career. Augusta, GA
The story is that after Hogan had won a major tournament, a reporter asked him: “How is it that, under pressure, you’re able to hit so many miraculous shots?”
After reflecting for a moment, Hogan answered, “I guess I’m just lucky.”
“But, Mr. Hogan,” the reporter came back, “you practice more than any golfer who ever lived.”
“Well,” Hogan said, “the more I practice the luckier I get.”
It’s all in preparation.
The more we practice being like Jesus, the luckier we will be in acting like Jesus.
And people will notice.
People will see the salvation of God by looking at us.
And now unto God the Father,
God the Son,
And God the Holy Spirit be ascribed all might, power, dominion and glory, today and forever, Amen.
Dr. W. Maynard Pittendreigh
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Ministers may feel free to use some or all of this sermon in their own ministries as long as they do not publish in print or on the Internet without ascribing credit to the author.