In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’ This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said, ‘The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.”’ Now John wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.
“Prepare the way of the Lord” John the Baptist’s words echo those of Isaiah then adds let’s get ready for the Kingdom of heaven is near. How are we preparing for this in 2023? Do we feel the need for preparation, or do we feel we are ready as the Messiah has effectively already been and gone. We know the end of the story that John is professing – does that make us exempt from preparation?
As exam season looms again, an expression often used is “Fail to prepare, prepare to fail”. Could we apply this to our lives? Unlike John, unless we are entering the jungle in a well known ITV show we do not have to dress in sackcloth and eat honey and locusts, but surely the new year is an opportunity to prepare for what is to come? Are our roads straight, so all can see our motives and our intentions, or do we like to wind our roads so we can conceal things we are not so sure of?
Where then is our wilderness? Are we a lone voice in a secular society? Is it time to re-state to the world that they (and we) need to repent? How would such a message be received? In John’s case many came to confess their sins and be baptised – would such a message today be greeted with the same enthusiasm, or would we be taken away to the “funny farm”, or worse – completely ignored?
Throughout the gospels we are warned to be ready and the dangers of what will happen if we are not. Let us take heed of John’s (and Isaiah’s) words and make straight the paths, clear our intentions and move forward to prepare the way of the Lord
Lord, life is often seen as a long and winding road, but you take us down a straight path, to be open and honest in all we do. Help us to see the way ahead so that we may prepare for what is to come and see others on the road that we may serve them in their need, or walk alongside them on their way. Amen
The Rev’d Ruth Watson SCM MediaCityUK Church, Salford Quays