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Prepare your heart for Jesus’ coming

Based on the Gospel of Mark 1:1-8
He lived in the desert. He wore clothes made of camel’s hair, which is hot, itchy and not comfortable for someone living in the desert. He ate locusts and wild honey. He had a long, scraggly beard. He was the last and greatest prophet who announced the arrival of the Messiah. His name was John the Baptist.

As we read the Scriptures, we learn God often used messengers to deliver his messages to people. In the Old Testament, the prophets such as Isaiah and Jeremiah told the Hebrew people (also called the Israelites or the Jews or the Chosen People) about the coming of Jesus the Messiah. They didn’t know when Jesus would arrive, but they told the people to love and honor God and love others in preparation for the Messiah’s coming.

Actually, the Hebrews waited hundreds of years. None of the prophets or leaders, like Moses or Abraham, in the Old Testament saw the birth of the Messiah. Yet, they always tried to be ready for his coming.

In this Sunday’s Gospel, John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin and his forerunner – one who announces the coming of another – boldly calls people to conversion and a change of heart. Despite John’s rather shaggy appearance, different eating habits, and eccentric manner, people flocked to the Jordan River to listen to him. In a thunderous voice, he preached, “Change your lives and turn away from sin and selfishness; tell God you’re sorry; start to live your lives for God because Jesus has finally come to earth to teach you about God’s love and everlasting life.” John’s message about Jesus is so important all four Gospels tell us about it.

To be ready for the Messiah, John called the people to baptism in the Jordan River. In this way John stands between the Old Testament and the New Testament pointing the way to Jesus. When John baptized the people in the river, it was just a sign of their willingness to convert wholeheartedly and begin a new life showing love for God and others by their words and actions. Our baptism is a sacrament through which our sin is taken away by the power of the Holy Spirit, making us children of God, heirs to God’s Kingdom and brothers and sisters of Jesus.

It’s the second week of Advent and one week closer to Christmas. Are you getting your heart ready for Jesus? Don’t forget confession and holy Communion. Be prayerful, good, forgiving and loving. By virtue of our baptism, we are to “prepare the way of the Lord.” That’s what Advent is all about. Jesus is coming.