"And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace." Luke 1:76-79
It's seven days until Christmas Day. How prepared are you?
I'm not prepared. I love Christmas and everything about the Christmas season, but the actual day always sneaks up on me and then disappears. I guess we miss it because all the preparation for Christmas involves cleaning, arranging, decorating, partying and shopping (not necessarily in that order) and once it finally gets here we're exhausted!
John, the son of Zechariah and Elizabeth, who is spoken about in these verses in Luke 1:76-79, was the one God called to prepare the way for Jesus, the Messiah, to make Himself known to the world. The angel Gabriel told Zechariah that his son, John, would "make ready a people prepared for the Lord" (Luke 1:17).
I'm guilty most years at Christmas of only preparing the outside things for celebrating the birth of Jesus. I focus on the yard, the lights, the tree, the house, and looking nice at holiday parties. But instead of solely focusing on the external things, what if we spent a little time preparing our hearts, our internal selves, before Christmas Eve for experiencing the birth of Jesus in a fresh and new way this year?
We've all got seven days leading up to Christmas Day. What if we read through the birth narrative of Jesus each day from now until Christmas morning? That's twenty verses (Luke 2:1-20). What if we focused on the details of the story, the feelings Joseph and Mary experienced, the shepherds encounter with the angels, the awe of actually seeing and hearing angels speak and sing?
What if we didn't simply walk into our respective services on Christmas Eve distracted by presents we're hoping to get or hoping someone will like or hoping will be delivered by Amazon Prime Now? What if we started preparing days ahead for Jesus's birth? How different might your personal encounter with the living Christ be this year?
If you did this, I believe your Christmas Eve moment wouldn't be based on how cute the animals were or how great the message was or whether you got goosebumps during the candle lighting. No, your encounter would be much greater than all those external things are. And you wouldn't feel like you missed Christmas if any of those things weren't what you hoped and dreamed they would be.
See, your time spent in preparation over the next seven days on thinking about and celebrating the coming of Jesus, I believe, would make your internal, heart experience on Christmas that much more powerful and meaningful. You would be able to build on the excitement, the wonder, the absolute beauty of God Himself coming into this world to save you.
So what do you say? Let's walk to the stable together over these next seven days and kneel at the manger as the shepherds must have done to worship the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Let's see how God makes this Christmas that much more special for each of us to experience.
On this Christmas journey with you,