Most children I know love to celebrate their birthday. Cake, presents, candles and games. Wouldn’t it be great if you could celebrate your birthday for an entire month? While that would be unreasonable in most cases (and would drive most parents bananas), there is one birthday that merits such celebration; the birthday of Jesus. In fact, we’ll be celebrating His birth and the great rescue that it represents for eternity.
During the four weeks preceding Christmas Day, we’ll be looking at four biblical figures that can teach us something of how to approach Christmas. This week, we turn our attention to John the Baptist.
John the Baptist had a very special role in God’s plan for Israel. He was a voice calling out, “Prepare the way of the Lord.” Among other things, he was responsible for clearing the path for Jesus. He called people to reflection and repentance. He pointed Israel to their Messiah. So what John the Baptist was for Israel, Advent can be for us. Here are four ways that we can “prepare him room” during this advent season.
First, meditate on what life would look like without a savior. What would your life be like if God stepped back and left you to yourself? No forgiveness. No great exchange of Jesus Christ’s righteousness for your sin. No removal of guilt. No cure for shame. What would you tell your loved ones who wanted to be right with God? You would have nothing to tell them. And we would all be stuck in the mire of sin and its eternal consequence. It’s heartbreaking to think about it. But, oh, is it worth pondering.
In 1524, Martin Luther wrote, “No son of man could conquer Death. Such mischief sin had wrought us. For innocence dwelt not on earth and therefore Death had brought us into thralldom from of old and ever grew more strong and bold and kept up in his bondage.” Meditating on life without Christ has the power to awaken in us a deep sense of sorrow and longing that will make thoughts of his coming that much sweeter.
Second, take time to carefully examine yourself. It is difficult to prepare room for Jesus in the castle of your heart when it is cluttered about with unconfessed sin and destructive habits. Unconfessed sin blinds your heart from seeing things rightly. A harsh word to a loved one drives distance into relationship. Binge-watching Netflix numbs your spiritual appetites. Follow John the Baptist who “appeared in the wilderness preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”
Third, develop a Christ-centered excitement and anticipation in your heart and home. Let’s be honest for a minute. What do kids most look forward to each Christmas? Is it not getting stuff? And what do you anticipate? Is it the opportunity to delight in Christ? We must find ways to cultivate a hunger for Christ. The goal here is not to despise cookies or gifts. The goal is to think rightly about the secondary things of Christmas and see Christ, our sweetest treasure, as primary. And parents, you set the tone here. If you model excitement for Jesus, you prepare the way for your children to be excited about Him as well.
Fourth, sit close to the fire of God’s word. Jeremiah 23:29 says, “Is not my word like fire, says the Lord!” If there was a time to build into the fabric of your days time spent close to the warm presence of the word of God, it’s the advent season. Each day, open up the word. Be warmed and comforted (and excited!) by its precious promises. And may the flames of its glorious truth generate sweet hymns of praise to our great King!
Joy to the world!
The Lord is come.
Let earth receive her king!
Let every heart prepare him room and heaven and nature sing.