Whether some folks call it Advent or not, the weeks before Christmas are a season of preparation.  Relatives may be coming and going.  Fancy meals and special treats are prepared.  Traffic and crowds at the mall challenge our patience.  Everyone is preparing, getting ready.

Christians know that the real preparation for the coming of Christ, whether looking back in gratitude for His first coming, or forward in faith to His second coming, is all about repentance.

Isaiah foretold the coming of a great repentance preacher, John the Baptist,  as “a voice calling in the desert.”   It may sound impersonal to call John the Baptist “a voice.”  But that is all John ever claimed to be.

John’s assignment, as Isaiah described it in his 40th chapter, was to make ready a road, to prepare a path for the coming of the King.  This is a road on which the King comes to us, not we to Him.  He chose us; we did not choose Him.  He died for us; we did not decide for Him.  He gave Himself for us when we had no inclination to give our hearts to Him.  When Christ comes to us, He comes on a path of His own making, by His own means, on His own terms.

In ancient times, when a king came to make an official visit, a highway was specially prepared.  Valleys were raised up, hills leveled, rocks removed, potholes filled in – for the king’s coming.

So it is with the King of kings.  The road must be made ready, prepared first by the law which levels mountains of pride, rocks of self-righteousness, obstacles of rebellion.  The road must be made ready too by the gospel, the good news of a Savior who became our Substitute, whose forgiveness fills in our valleys of despair.

Real preparation for the coming of the King begins with real repentance – a change of heart and mind.  By the law God changes the way we think about sin.  We see sin for the damning thing that it is.  By the gospel we are given to see that we cannot save ourselves, that Christ alone can save us and has saved us by His perfect life, death and resurrection.  Without this change of heart and mind, all the other preparations mean nothing.  

Ah, dearest Jesus, Holy Child, make Thee a bed, soft, undefiled within my heart that it may be a quiet chamber kept for Thee.”