What would you do if the President were coming to your house for dinner next week? Before you discount the ridiculous nature of that question, give your imagination a chance to take over. What would you do to prepare?
I would pick up the toys strewn across my living room floor, and clean the house from top to bottom- or better yet, hire a maid to do it. I would start meal planning immediately, consulting cookbooks, friends, and the Internet to find food worthy to serve to such an honored guest. I would grocery shop, decorate, seek advice on appropriate table settings, and perhaps have a nervous breakdown.
One thing I guarantee I would not do, and I’m guessing you would not do either: I would not do NOTHING. Knowing the President was going to visit would shift my priorities. I would do SOMETHING to prepare.
Isaiah says that preparations should be made for the coming Messiah.
A voice of one calling: “In the wilderness prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all people will see it together. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” –Isaiah 30:3-5
Travel in Isaiah’s day was difficult. It was vital to prepare a clear path for the visit of a king. In the same way, God says He will send a voice to prepare the way for the Messiah’s arrival. Before Jesus’ begins His ministry, such a voice calls out.
In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:
“A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’” – Matthew 3:1-3
John the Baptist fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah 40:3. He is the one God sends to prepare the people for the Messiah. And what does He ask them to do?
In Isaiah’s day, the wilderness that needed to be cleared for a king’s arrival was a literal one. In our day, it is figurative. The wilderness is in our hearts.
Christ fills the empty spaces of our hearts, but He is not a bully. He does not break in- He waits for an invitation and a clear path. Sin blocks the way.
- When we carry pride, it is a mountain. We are full of ourselves, leaving little room for Christ to occupy.
- When we carry greed, it is trees. We let wants and desires sprout up and grow, leaving the path for Christ full of twists, turns, and debris.
- When we carry hate, it is a valley. We have a dark and deep hole, leaving Christ standing at the edge.
Repentance is the most important preparation we can make for the celebration of the Messiah’s arrival. Through it, we can celebrate, in real time, His advent to new places of our hearts.
Admit that these sins fill our hearts with the wrong things. Chop down the trees, raise up the valleys, lower the mountains, and make a straight path for Christ to come in and occupy.
For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. –Ephesians 3:14-19