11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13 But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid,Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink,and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16 He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
Isaiah commands us to “prepare the way” of the Lord. The angel announces that John’s mission is to “make ready a people prepared” for the Lord. The focus tightens and becomes clearer. God has important business with the human race. The implication is that we are not “prepared” or ready to encounter our Creator. What does this mean?
Ever since Adam life within the circle of the sun has been cursed. All of us are bent and twisted morally, spiritually, socially, economically, etc. Our relationship with God is bent and twisted (and with people and creation as well). Meeting Him as we are would be awkward, painful, hopeless. Something inside us senses this is true and so we, like Adam before us, work at keeping God at a distance, out of sight.
Christmas is God’s offer to redeem the situation. Not by laying down the law, but by laying Himself down, first by taking on human flesh, then by living the life of fellowship and obedience Adam could not, and finally by paying the penalty earned by every lawbreaker and rebel with his human flesh and blood. Our redemption comes through Jesus as we believe He did it for us, and that it is enough. And when we believe, we are ready!
As Jesus comes to us again this Christmas I challenge you to be ready – not because of your hard work, but because of Jesus’ hard life, death and resurrection! Rejoice!
Amen, let it be.