3 In those days John the Baptist appeared in the desert of Judea announcing, 2 “Change your hearts and lives! Here comes the kingdom of heaven!” 3 He was the one of whom Isaiah the prophet spoke when he said:
The voice of one shouting in the wilderness,
“Prepare the way for the Lord;
make his paths straight.”
4 John wore clothes made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist. He ate locusts and wild honey.
When I worked in New York City, I often saw people standing on street corners holding signs that read, “Repent, the end is near.” They reminded me of John the Baptist; prophetic voices crying out in the urban wilderness. If we were to see John the Baptist heading towards us on the street today, dressed in camel’s hair and shouting “Repent!” I think most of us would immediately turn around and go the other way. Ironically, that is exactly what John is telling us we need to do, to turn around and change the direction of our lives. John calls us this Advent season to repent for leading lives consumed with focusing on ourselves, and to change the direction of our lives so that we will lead lives focused on God. John is calling us to repent and prepare for the coming of Jesus and the Kin-dom of Heaven.
First, John says, repent and ask for God’s loving forgiveness. The Greek word for repentance, metanoia, means to “change one’s mind.” When we repent we experience a total change that is reflected in our behavior and our way of living that comes from our hearts being transformed by God’s love. This is a spiritual change brought about by the grace of God through the Holy Spirit that results in our devoting our lives to loving God and loving others. When God changes our hearts, our lives are never the same. We serve God and make disciples, doing the work that brings the coming of the Kin-dom of Heaven ever closer to completion.
Next, John commands us to prepare the way for Jesus by making the paths straight. In ancient times the roads needed constant work. The kings who traveled the dirt and stone roads sent workers out ahead to fill in the potholes and smooth out the surface of the roads. The roads were straightened so the king and his followers could arrive more quickly to their destination. In the same way, John calls us to prepare for Jesus’ arrival by doing the work of God’s Kin-dom.
by Jeneene Reduker
For Pondering & Prayer
This Advent we are called to repent, to change direction and to live our lives focused on God. What are the areas in your life that you need to give to God to smooth out and straighten? How are you preparing for the arrival of Jesus as a worker for the Kin-dom of Heaven?
Prayer: Holy and Loving God, forgive us and transform our hearts by your Spirit. Let us always be focused on doing your work to prepare for the arrival of Jesus and your Kin-dom. Amen.