Illustration by Phil Younk
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Based on the Gospel of Matthew 3:1-12
He lived in the desert. He wore clothes made of camel’s hair, which is hot, itchy and uncomfortable 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 Bible, we learn God often used messengers to deliver his messages to people. In the Old Testament, the prophets such as Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel 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 people to love and honor God and love others in preparation for the Messiah’s coming.

Actually, the Hebrews waited hundreds of years for Jesus the Messiah. 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 repentance, conversion and a change of heart. People flocked to the Jordan River to listen to John. 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.

Wondering who John was, many people asked if they should follow him. John said, “No, I am only a messenger. Jesus, the Savior, will be here soon. You should follow him.”

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 a visible sign of their willingness to change wholeheartedly and begin showing love for God and others by their words and actions.

Our baptism is a sacrament through which sin is taken away by the power of the Holy Spirit, grace is conferred and we become members of the Body of Christ, the church. By virtue of our baptism, we, too, are to “prepare the way of the Lord” and call others to become faithful followers 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. Let us pray, “Come, Lord Jesus!”