PREPARE THE WAY FOR THE LORD MODBURY ISAIAH 40:1-11, 2 PETER 3:8-15 A.M. 14/12/08 When we know something important is coming up we tend to make sure we are well prepared. For a wedding, there are many preparations that need to be made, including the most important of the Bride and groom spending important time with a counselor beforehand to make sure they are well prepared for, not just the wedding day, but more importantly, the days and weeks and years after the wedding day. For the birth of a child, there are lots of preparations that need to be made. The nursery has to be made ready. The prenatal classes need to be attended so the couple knows what to do in the delivery suite. The hospital has to be booked and things have to be purchased ready for when baby comes home. The stroller, the car capsule, the many nappies, etc. Some things will be given as gifts, but there are many things that have to be prepared in advance. Going for a job interview takes preparation. You need to prepare your résumé and actually apply for the job. You have to dress up a bit so that the employer at least thinks you want the job and have done all you can to better your chances of getting it. That might even mean buying some new clothes and getting a hair cut, or at least doing it. It‟s also good to include God in this whole process so that he can help you to concentrate during the interview and stay calm and confident. There‟s a lot of everyday things that we do that we prepare for. Christmas is also a time where a lot of preparation is done, at least by our parents, wives, or those who are hosting the celebrations. Gifts have to be bought, a menu thought about and then the food purchased, the Christmas cake has to be made, which can take some time as the fruit is soaked overnight and the ingredients made ready, so that when the cake is being made you have everything you need on hand. The decorations have to be put up, the lights and all the other things that you might do are also prepared well in advance of the actual day. Christmas Day can also be a very hectic day for some as different families have to be visited and parties attended. But even before the Christmas Day celebrations are on, there can be a number of pre-Christmas work, group and family parties or dinners held that also take some preparations, time and effort to make them what we want. When I was working in the Fire-brigade, I worked nine out of eleven Christmas Days. I would have to be up early to have gift opening with the boys, then rush off to work. I would then be allowed to go to my parents for an early lunch, with the fire truck or car and a radio so I could respond if needed. I would then work until 6.00pm and then go to Trish‟s parents for Christmas tea. If I wasn‟t working it was even more hectic. We would open our presents at home, have a quick breakfast, rush down to Trish‟s parents to open presents there and then go home and get ready for church, and then go to my parents for gift opening and lunch and then to Trish‟s parents for tea and then home exhausted, and the kids didn‟t get all that much time to play with the gifts we had bought them. Christmas can be so busy we don‟t have time to really enjoy what‟s most important, that of spending time with our families and with God. Preparing for Christmas can actually distract us from the time we could and should be spending with God preparing our own hearts for this wonderful celebration. Isaiah spoke a prophecy that he didn‟t know what it meant at the time, but was certainly preparing the way for and was then fulfilled in Jesus Christ, the Messiah. He spoke about John the Baptist, we now know him as, and the fact that he would come calling for people to make the way ready for the Messiah to come. Verses 3-5 tell us, “A voice of one calling: “In the desert prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” Prepare the way for the Lord. John the Baptist came and told the people to get themselves ready for the coming of the Messiah. He told them to make sure their hearts were right with God through repentance, so that their hearts were ready to receive the one the OT prophets had spoken of. Verses 10-11 then tell us, “See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power, and his arm rules for him. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him. He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” Jesus Christ came with power and he came to care for his people like a shepherd cares for his sheep. But even at the end of this chapter the prophecy is still accurate. Verses 28-31, “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” When we prepare our hearts for Christ and get right with God, we too are restored and refreshed and we are strengthened to go on living for Christ each and every day. But in the New Testament, especially in our reading from 2 Peter 3, we have Peter talking about the second coming of Jesus Christ for which we must also prepare our hearts. Peter speaks of scoffers who will say that it hasn‟t happened in 2000 years, for our timing now, so maybe it won‟t happen. Verse 4 says, “They will say, “Where is this „coming‟ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has been since the beginning of creation.” Peter reminds them that it is also said that God created the heavens and the earth by his word, and that God is still keeping an eye on His creation and keeping it for that day of judgment. Then in verses 8-9 Peter reminds us all, “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” God is holding off his judgment so that as many as possible can have the opportunity of hearing about the saving grace of Jesus Christ and to come to faith because he loves us so much that he doesn‟t want anyone to perish and spend eternity out of his presence. Now, just like Peter was doing when he wrote this, we are looking forward to that time when Christ will come again to take all his people to be with him and God in heaven. We too are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, a place that God has prepared for all who believe. Verses 14-15 then say, “So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with Him. Bear in mind that our Lord‟s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him.” I guess the question we can ask is, “How are we to prepare for the second coming of Christ, the first of which we are about to celebrate?” I think we are to make sure we are spotless and blameless and at peace with God. The only way we can do that is by accepting Jesus Christ as our personal Saviour and Lord, the boss of our lives, and to repent of all the wrongs we have done, so that we are free from those things and are able to then come into God‟s presence. Maybe as we think about this God is prompting you about some sin or wrong in your life that needs to be made spotless. Maybe he is saying to you that there is something in your life that Satan can blame you about that God wants cleansed so you can be set free from that accusation so you can be blameless before God. Maybe there is an area of your life that is anything but at peace with God right now. Prepare the way for the Lord. John the Baptist came preaching this message and thousands were set free from the consequences of their sins so they could then come into Christ‟s presence. God is saying the same to you and me today. Prepare the way for the Lord. Get right with God this moment, so that this Christmas can be a true celebration, not only of the birth of Jesus Christ, but also the new birth of your life and mine in Christ. This new birth of a whole new way of living and thinking and behaving that will honour Jesus Christ, the baby who came to be our Messiah. Emmanuel, Christ with us. If you do need to get right with God, then take some time to seriously and prayerfully consider this and get right with God. Do this as we sing, or you may like to make a special time to do so afterwards. It may be that you would like to stay behind and have some quiet time with God. If you need to, speak to someone and ask them to pray and to help you do that. Get alongside a friend or see an elder or myself or Trish after this service if you need to. But don‟t let your not being right with God disrupt or hinder your Christmas any more. Deal with it now. Don‟t let your busyness stop you from dealing with the business. Prepare the way for the Lord.