This morning's message was off-the-cuff, so there's no manuscript. Here's the gist…
1The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
2As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,
???See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way;
3the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
???Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,??????
4John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.??5And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.6Now John was clothed with camel???s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.??7He proclaimed, ???The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals.??8I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.???
As a church, we have 2 very important tasks before us in preparing the way of the Lord, 1) preparing the world for Christ's coming, for what God desires to do for the world through Christ, and 2) preparing our own hearts for Christ's birth within. This season is for everybody???the believer and the not-yet-believer.??
1) the Christian seasons of the Church year are very intentional and more often than not we miss the chance to draw others closer to God through them. There's a whole world within the Church filled with forgiveness and transformation that people are unaware of. Most people are preoccupied with political ideas that only represent a fraction of Christian thought and belief while others fuel their ignorance of the Church with caracitures that misrepresent who Christ is and what He's been sent to do.??
Preparing the way of the Lord means cultivating people's minds to receive God's Savior. The chains of sin are broken through what Jesus has come to do…and people need to know that! This is why the baby in the manger is important. This is why we need to be a voice in the wilderness, crying out and inviting people to the cleansing waters.??
2) our own discipleship and spiritual vitality depends upon the care we take of our own souls. Each of us has the time through this season to reflect on where we stand with our God and make adjustments that will make us stronger and more effective. The season of Advent/Christmas is intended to be used for growth. When we contemplate in our hearts who God is and what He is doing through singing sacred carols and bringing gifts to those around us, we are warmed and changed by a season of love.??
The Christmas Tree is a great example of what it means to anticipate the coming of Christ on Christmas. An ordinary tree is taken from an ordinary place, set up within a home for all to see and decorated in splendor. It's entire purpose is to remind all who see it of the grandeur of that joyous day when we unwrap gifts we have waited so long for. God desires to do the same with us, to take each of us within himself, adorn us with splendor for all to see so that all??may be reminded of that great day when He arrives.??
Prepare the way of the Lord, for the world and for yourself. Have a great week!
Rev. Whit R. Martin??
Pastor,??New Liberty United Methodist Church