Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Christmas in the Wilderness

I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your waya voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’– Mark 1:2-3

As the Christmas countdown clock winds down, and as you make your way through the checkout lines at WalMart or Winco, chances are you’ve been hearing the question: “Are you ready for Christmas?” And most of us will answer: “NO!!!” After all, you’ve still got shopping to finish and Christmas cards to write and Christmas programs to attend. But in the first chapter of his gospel, Mark reminds us that there is a much more important question to ask: Are you ready for Jesus?

Most of us have never heard a Christmas sermon preached out of the Book of Mark. And there’s a good reason for that: Mark doesn’t write anything about the nativity. Nothing about a baby crying, angels singing or wise men traveling. He doesn’t say a single word about Bethlehem, a virgin birth or a manger. But hidden in the opening verses of Mark 1, there are some powerful, hidden insights about the first Christmas. He starts it right off in verse 1: “The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”

When Jesus was born, the title Son of God was more or less interchangeable with the title of Messiah or Christ. But as Jesus’ ministry progressed, he demonstrated through his teaching and miracles that the title meant much more than just the Christ: he himself was divine. He himself was God in the flesh. Jesus came to earth as the Christ and the very Son of God. He was 100 percent man, but he was also 100% God. Now, that’s a miracle to celebrate!

But are you ready? As we prepare for Christmas, Mark wants us to know that before Jesus began his ministry, God sent John the Baptist to prepare the way. Mark writes in verses 2 and 3, I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your waya voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’” Notice that he uses the word “prepare” twice in those two verses. And those who hoped to be in God’s will were called to join him in preparing.

So, this Christmas, what do you think the chances are that God is much more concerned with you preparing your heart for Jesus than He is with you preparing your table for the Christmas ham? What do you suppose the chances are that God is more concerned with you preparing your schedule to worship Christ than He is with you preparing your best white elephant gift?

Don’t get me wrong. The ham and the gifts and the lights and the music are all wonderful parts of the Christmas season. But they’re all meaningless if we don’t prepare ourselves for the heart of Christmas: Jesus Christ, the Son of God, born to save the world. God wants us to prepare ourselves and our families to celebrate his coming, to worship his majesty, and to recommit our lives to him.

And for one more marvelous insight … according to verses 3 and 4, where did John do his preaching? Well, some translations use the word “wilderness.” Others translate the Greek word as … “desert.” Doesn’t that sound a lot like the Victor Valley? “And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Mark 1:4).

Time and time again in Scripture, we find that God speaks to us in the wilderness, reaches out to us in the wilderness, calls us to repent and change our evil ways in the wilderness, God forgives us and ushers us into the Promised Land from the wilderness. Mark wants us to understand that the story of Christmas—the story of Jesus—begins in the wilderness … or, if you like, the desert.

Let’s be honest: For many of us, this is NOT the most wonderful time of the year. Some of us have lost family members this year. Others have lost jobs, while still others have seen our health take a nosedive. Perhaps you are flat broke and can’t even think about buying presents or taking a trip to see family this Christmas. The truth is—as this year draws to a close, many of us are in the wilderness.

But guess what happens in the wilderness? God speaks. God reaches out. God calls. And what’s His message? “Jesus is coming. In fact, Jesus is already here. Prepare the way for him in your heart, because he is the heart of Christmas. Take hold of him, and don’t let go.”

Dane Davis is the Pastor of First Christian Church in Victorville. For more information, visit www.fccvv.com.  Join us for our message series, “Simply Christmas,” Sunday at 10 a.m., and for our Christmas Eve Service Sunday night at 7 pm.

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