This is the third Sunday of Advent. Each year during this season, the church turns her attention to one of the most fascinating characters of the New Testament – a rugged prophet named John the Baptizer. We focus the spotlight on this man during this season for a very good reason. It was John who first prepared the people for the message and ministry of Jesus. He led the way. He set the stage on which Jesus became the focal point.
This is the reason we turn our attention to John during Advent. What he did in the first century is still needed in the twenty-first century. The coming of Jesus is an event that required preparation. It does not happen automatically. History makes this truth abundantly clear.
Almost two thousand years ago, Jesus came to the village of Bethlehem. He was born there. But for most of the people in Bethlehem that night, it was as if He did not come at all. They missed it. He also came to the village of Nazareth. That was His hometown. He lived there most of His life. But for the majority of the people of Nazareth, it was as if He did not come at all. They, too, missed it.
This same situation was repeated over and over again throughout His life. He came, He lived, He loved, He taught.
And for some people, His coming was a personal experience. It became the most important event of their lives. But for
many others, it had no apparent effect. They saw Him, they listened to what He said, and they went on their way. For
them it was as if He never came at all.
What was the difference between these two groups of people? Jesus came to both. All of them saw and heard
essentially the same things. But for some, His coming was a reality, and for others it was not. Obviously, the difference
was in the people themselves. It was something on the inside – an attitude, the condition of their hearts. To those who
were ready for Him, His coming was real. Those who were not ready did not even know He came.
So the work of John the Baptizer was of critical importance. His task was to prepare the people – to get them
ready to experience the coming of Jesus. He did this by confronting his audience with the necessity to change their way
of living. Those who recognized that need and became willing to change were ready to experience the coming of Jesus.
Those who refused to face that need were not. That was the dividing line, because Jesus was in the business of changing
lives. That is still His business today. He accepts us as we are. But He will not allow us to comfortably remain that way.
He sees our possibilities. And His commitment is to turn those possibilities into realities. So for you and me, Advent
raises one profound question: Are we willing to change?
There is nothing more basic to our development than a willingness to change. We must provide it. If we do, then
nothing can keep Jesus from coming into our lives and doing His work there. God would be with us, and in us to help us
become what we were meant to be. But if we do not provide it, then His coming will have little or no effect on us. We
too will miss it. It will be for us, as though He never came at all. So are we willing to have Jesus help us change? That is