We don’t celebrate Advent as re-enactors. We do not pretend that Christ has not come. We celebrate Advent as believers. We believe that Christ has come and therefore all of the promises of God have come true and are coming true. Because Emmanuel has come, we take this time each year to remember and celebrate what is true all the time: we serve the God who has come, continues to come, and who will come again to judge the world. So while we are not in the same position as the Old Testament saints who needed to prepare the way of the Lord for the first time, we still do indeed prepare Him room. We are all practicing to meet Jesus every day because He comes. We are getting the world ready for Jesus, and we are getting ready for Him.
The Text: “Comfort ye, Comfort, ye, my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD’S hand double for all her sins.
The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.
The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.
O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God! Behold, the Lord GOD will come with strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him. He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young. (Isa. 40:1-11)
A Christian prepares for Christ by practicing deep comfort (Is. 40:1). How does anyone prepare to meet God? Meeting the God of the universe will be like nothing we have ever experienced. It will utterly undo us; every secret will be laid bare (Lk. 12:2-3). There will be no excuses, no explanations – there will be nothing to say. All will be exhaustively clear (1 Cor. 3:13). And yet the glorious thing is that sinners who have hidden themselves in Christ will find themselves laid absolutely bare and will look down and see the righteousness of Christ covering them in glory. And it will be the deepest comfort you have ever known. But Christians long for that day to come because they have begun to taste that comfort now. Christians still await the final, perfect comfort, but they wait in hope because they have experienced true comfort now. “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1). The warfare of fighting for our own righteousness, meaning, success, and joy has ended. Our iniquity has been pardoned. We have received double from the Lord’s hand for all our sins (Is. 40:2).
Remove Every Obstacle
This was the cry of John the Baptist, but it still represents well how Christians should prepare for the Lord every day. We want straight highways to God everywhere every day. We want everything in our life to be a sacrifice of praise (Heb. 13:15). We want everything to be an altar of worship. So every valley in our life needs to be filled in, every mountain and hill bulldozed, the rough and crooked places need to be straightened and steamrolled. So do an inventory: where are your valleys, your mountains, your rough and crooked places? Is it work? Entertainment? Your thought life? Your extended family? Your fears? What do you need to do? What changes do you need to make? Jesus said that if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better to go to Heaven with one eye than to go to Hell with both eyes, better to go to Heaven with one hand than to go to Hell with two hands (Mt. 5:29-30). Remove every obstacle to faithfulness and obedience. The flip side of this is the clear implication that God is coming for all of us. All flesh shall see the glory of the Lord, and that is either the most wonderful news or the most terrible news. Either the glory of the Lord will find us faithfully pressing toward Him or else it will find us unprepared. All flesh shall see Him, and this can also be encouragement for you to do the right thing even if no else is.
Get Your Priorities Straight
You prepare this world for Christ by prioritizing rightly. What really matters? The voice cries that flesh is grass and it withers like flowers and grass. This life is momentary, short, like a breath. God created material stuff. Material stuff is good. But it’s all practice for the permanent things: either heavenly or hellish. Fading things aren’t worthless, but it’s silly to pretend that fading things are permanent. When you get a tree and decorate it, when you wrap presents, when you hang lights and bake cookies, you’re practicing for something permanent. What are you practicing for? You’re either practicing joy and generosity and patience and wisdom – things that last forever or you’re practicing selfishness, greed, pride, vainglory – worthless shadows. God’s Kingdom is forever. Human souls are forever. God’s Word is forever.
Lift Up Your Voice
How do you get ready for the Lord coming? Tell other people. Do you have good news? Do you have a mountain? Get up there and yell (Is. 40:9). Do you have good news? Then say it out loud. Don’t be afraid. God has come. YourGod has come (Is. 40:9-10). The God who made the heavens and earth, the God who created you and knows you and loves you. He is King and He knows what He is doing. His work is before Him (Is. 40:10). He is a faithful shepherd (Is. 40:11). He will gather all who are His in His arms. He will carry them. He will gently lead them. Are there hungry people in your life? Are there hurting people in your life? Are there lost people in your life? Don’t they need the good news of the Good Shepherd? Don’t you have that good news? Where is your mountain? Get up there and yell. Do not be afraid.
Conclusion: He Surely Comes
We sing in our metrical version of Psalm 98, “Because He comes, He surely comes, the judge of earth to be, with justice He will judge the world, all men with equity.” And this really is the good news of Advent. Because He comes, He surely comes. Because Christ has come, He will never leave us or forsake us. He meets us day by day in His Word. He meets us in the fellowship of the saints. He meets us every Lord’s Day in worship. So prepare Him room. He comes to make His blessings flow far as the curse is found. We’re getting everything ready because He comes.
I will be speaking at the Southeast Founders Conference January 3-5. Register here.
New e-book Death by Baptism available here.