Sunday, December 8, 2019

Sunday Praise & Worship Message - Preparation

As we continue our scriptural journey to the blessed birth of the Christ child, we pause for a moment to reflect on the preparation that each person had to undertake for themselves to play a part in the birth of the King of Kings. Aside from the obvious players of Mary and Joseph, there was another whose heart had to be prepared for the birth of a son who would be the lone voice in the wilderness. That voice would tell those around him that each must “prepare the way for the LORD’s coming”. That voice belonged to John the Baptist.

God sent the angel Gabriel to Mary, the mother of Jesus, to tell her that she would conceive a son. In the first chapter of Luke, Gabriel tells Mary, “Don’t be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!

Gabriel also tells her about her relative, Elizabeth, who, in her old age, has become pregnant with a child. All of these things would blow the minds of most individuals. Think about it. If you were given all of this information, you would have a hard time with it. You would need to be prepared not just mentally but also spiritually. 

For over 700 years, the Israelites had been waiting for the prophecies of Jeremiah, Micah and Isaiah to come to pass. But, during this time, God was preparing the hearts of all to receive His son. It takes time for people to be prepared and ready to receive such a wonderful gift. The time had to be right and in accordance with God’s will.

Six months before Mary was to conceive her son, Jesus, the angel Gabriel visited Zechariah while he was at the Temple. Gabriel gave him the news that his wife, Elizabeth, who had been barren and unable to have children, would give birth to a son. That son would be named John. Gabriel further told him that he would “be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah” and that he “will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord.”

Zechariah was shocked and in disbelief. For that disbelief, he was made mute. He was unable to speak. Soon after leaving the Temple, Elizabeth became pregnant with her son. She was so excited and praised God for this wonderful blessing. Patience is part of being prepared. Things happen when God wants them to happen.

When Mary visited Elizabeth to tell her of her wonderful news given to her by the angel Gabriel, the son in Elizabeth’s womb leaped for joy inside of her when she entered the house and greeted Elizabeth.

Elizabeth, in chapter one of the Gospel of Luke, tells Mary, “God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed. Why am I so honored, that the mother of my Lord should visit me? When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy. You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.

All of these events come down to one thing: preparation. God had to prepare the hearts, minds and bodies of those that would usher in the coming of the Lord. Elizabeth who was barren had her body changed in order to conceive and give birth to a son, John, who will come to be called “John the Baptist”. John would prepare the way for the Lord and prepare the hearts of the people for godly wisdom. His voice would be the one that cried out in the wilderness. He would be the one that baptized not only those who believe but also the son of God in flesh, Jesus.

When you look at the beautiful story of Jesus’ birth, you see two different and distinct periods of preparation. The first is the prophets preparing the hearts of the Israelites for the coming of the Messiah. The second is preparing the hearts of all including those of the future for the coming of the Lord.

In the first chapter of his gospel, John writes, what I consider the most touching and profound recounting of Jesus’s birth, “God sent a man, John the Baptist, to tell about the light so that everyone might believe because of his testimony. John himself was not the light; he was simply a witness to tell about the light. The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God. So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son. John testified about him when he shouted to the crowds, ‘This is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘Someone is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.’”

Is your heart prepared for the coming of the Lord? Are you making room in your life for him? If you haven't, isn’t it time that you do? Christmas is a time not only of wonder but also of reflection. I ask you to think about these two questions and answer honestly.

If you haven’t prepared room in your heart for him, I ask you to pray and seek wisdom. Remember the words of Gabriel when he told Zachariah of his son, John. Gabriel told him that his son “will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly.”

John the Baptist has prepared the way for Jesus not only to come into the world but also into your heart. Listen to the words and open your heart. 

Jesus stands at the door to your heart and is knocking. In the third chapter of Revelation, Jesus says, “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.

Prepare your heart to receive wisdom and make the way for the Lord to enter your heart. When you let him in, he will come into your life and give you the ability to stand firm in His grace. 

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

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