“Prepare the Way!”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Advent means coming. The American Heritage Dictionary defines advent as, “the coming or arrival esp. of something momentous; the birth or coming of Christ; the period including four Sundays before Christmas.” The Season of Advent is a call to heed the warning of the Prophet Isaiah. “A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” Isaiah 40:3. Several hundred years later, John the Baptist came as God’s spokesman to call God’s people to prepare to meet the Messiah by repenting of their sins. He came in the spirit and power of Elijah, Luke 1:17. Every year since, believers have prepared to meet the Christ who came 2,000 years ago.
Jesus is the only Son of God. He took upon Himself human nature in obedience to God, the Father. Jesus lived a perfect life and offered Himself as the perfect sacrifice. Only His person and work satisfies God’s wrath for sin. 2Corinthians 5:21 is God’s revelation of His grace extended to His people for their salvation. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
Jesus told us how to prepare in the light of John the Baptist’s declaration. “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Mark 1:15
The ones whom God chooses receive the gifts of faith and repentance from Him. It is the Spirit of God who applies the finished work of Christ. Those who profess Christ are penitent people who live relying upon Christ. The Jesus who is revealed in the gospel is the object of Christian faith. He is the holy one of God before whom we see the truth of our sinfulness and know that He is life. In other words, living in Christ is the only way to be prepared to meet Him.
As you begin to experience this Season of Advent, are you again seeking to prepare your mind and heart for the sovereign Lord Jesus?
In our country, perhaps in the western world as a whole, preparing to celebrate the Incarnation has been overshadowed by making sure that we’ve managed to buy gifts for family and friends.
Now I am not suggesting that Christians refrain from buying gifts for others. In fact, giving is an expression of those who have received. But, I am suggesting that we remember what we have received and give in response to God’s grace as a demonstration of having received His mercy.
As a child I remember that Christmas wasn’t fully realized until our whole family went to church on Christmas Eve. It has been our church family’s practice to celebrate Christmas Eve with a traditional worship service called, “Lessons and Carols”. We seek to involve our children in the service both for their worship and education. The service of Lessons and Carols was first used in 1918 at the Chapel of King’s College, Cambridge.
This 20th Century worship service’s purpose is to worship God by rehearsing God’s plan of Redemptive History. We read nine Scripture Lessons beginning in Genesis and ending with John’s gospel. As we hear from God, we respond in song with familiar Christmas Carols. Our aim is to turn our minds to God’s grace in saving His people. As God’s word is read, we are reminded that God established His plan of redemption in eternity. The Father and the Son made a covenant. The Son agreed to give His life to redeem those whom the Father chose before the world began.
The Service of Lessons and Carols is a “snapshot” of the Season of Advent. Christians are called by God to remember His mighty acts of Redemption. He progressively revealed His plan throughout the Bible. The church in the Old Testament experienced God’s delivery from the bondage of slavery in Egypt as a foreshadowing of God’s redemption accomplished by Jesus Christ.
In His first coming, Jesus called all to “repent and believe in the gospel.” God has ordained that outside of the church there is no ordinary means of salvation. May you hear the pure gospel preached from the pulpit in your church. Rejoice that Jesus came as the Savior the 1st time. He will return as the holy King and Judge the second. May you be ready for Him!