Randy Timmerman is a graduated Bailey Scholar from Randolph-Macon College and is currently a seminary student at Duke Divinity. Randy’s blog is Messages to Samaria

Slide3Read Matthew 3:1-12

Is everyone ready for Christmas?  I’m certainly not – I’m probably going to be one of those last minute shoppers on Christmas Eve night scrambling through row after row of store aisles looking for that perfect gift.  But my grandmother was not like that.  Her Christmas shopping was done before the end of August hit.  She was always ready when Christmas got here.

But as Christians, how are we supposed to get ready for Christ’s arrival?

This time of year, we hear the phrase “Prepare the way of the Lord” in anticipation for the coming Christ.  It is obligatory to read this passage from Isaiah 40 and Matthew 3 to prepare for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus.

But have you noticed the full verse contains more?  It reads, “Prepare the way of the Lord…make straight paths for Him.”

Of the two commands, preparing seems pretty easy; “making paths straight” sounds rougher.  But they go together.  “Making paths straight” is the call to everyone preparing for the coming Lord.

Does this mean that everyone is being called to work to make every literal path in the world straight?  That would require a lot of time, money, and physical labor . . . . .

So if not actual physical labor, what exactly does this call require?

John the Baptist’s sermon in the wilderness focuses on this prophesy from Isaiah.  Here we see John confront the Pharisees and Sadducees who came to the river where he baptized new believers.

John the Baptist was no hypocrite, so the way he reacted to these Jews would demonstrate how he expected us to make paths straight.

“Produce fruit in keeping with repentance,” John says, “and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”

These are like incredibly harsh words, especially for the season of Advent, but in these words we discover what John means by “…making paths straight.”

The preparation to which John referred was the spiritual preparation of each individual heart.  How do we respond?  By setting aside a few precious moments to reflect, pray, and read our Bibles to ask the Spirit of God to form our hearts to better understanding His word and plan for us.

At the same time, we should strive daily to increase our own spiritual fruits, but not because it eases our way into heaven or because it is commanded of us, but because we want to be like our Savior.

And so today, we celebrate Advent and the joyous meaning behind it, remembering that the call is the same today as it ever has been – “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight paths for him.”

Although her time on earth has passed, Grandma Timmerman prepared for more than just Christmas during the year.  She cultivated spiritual fruits – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control – all year long.

Let us all make a renewed effort to spend more time in spiritual preparation and producing New Fruit for our Lord.