The Luke Gospel reading fits into a larger section of Luke 3:1-4:13. It focuses on the preparation for the public ministry of Jesus. Our short text reads like an introduction to a prophetic book such as Hosea1:1 or Amos 1:1. It places John the Baptist in a specific time and place, associating this new prophet, John, with the prophets of old. This signals, just as with the Israelite prophets, the intertwining of public, political life with God’s word coming in time and space. We should not overlook the fact that just as with the formation of Israel God’s word comes to John in the wilderness or desert.
The original message of Isaiah 40:3-5 quoted by Luke was given to the exiles returning from Babylon. It marked a new beginning and opportunity for Israel’s rescue. The hearers of Luke’s message could not have missed the connection between these words of comfort and the messianic hopes so imbedded in the tradition.
John’s proclamation of a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins ties together John and Jesus. Forgiveness and repentance are the heart of Luke’s gospel. John announces and prepares for all that Jesus will embody. So the focus of this Luke text is on being prepared.
Preparation means for us to change, that is to turn around from our ways of hatred to ways of loving. It means caring for the stranger and hosting the strangers even as Bethlehem did. That small town did not have a red carpet to lay out for the visitors. It was only a manager but it even welcomed the visitors of the infant Jesus. Are our churches this Advent as open to the visitor?
Our call this Advent is to be on the road again searching for every means possible to make a new beginning in our lives and the lives of those around us. Advent reminds us that we, too, are preparing not just to sing the glorious carols of Advent and Christmastide but to journey once more into the very heart and soul of God’s advent into our lives.
Will Christ be born in you this Advent wherever you are in your journey? Remember a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sin is with us now. Be Prepared!