On Friday we saw God’s glory depart from the temple. The sacrificial system would no longer provide access to God.
The old was gone—but the departure signaled the new that was approaching.
Then came the 400 silent years.
God was quiet.
Until . . .
“In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zacharias . . . he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense . . . And an angel of the Lord appeared to him . . .”
Gabriel delivered the message that God would give Zacharias and Elizabeth a son in their old age, a very special son. He would prepare the way for the Messiah—the new and living way. Their son would be the forerunner who would announce the fulfillment of God’s promise to once again dwell with man.
“Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John. You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord; and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God. It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah . . . to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” (Luke 1:13-17).
“To make ready a people prepared for the Lord” . . . what an assignment! John the Baptist, the older cousin to Jesus by six months, son of a priest and long-awaited child to parents in their old age—he would herald the Messiah’s advent by delivering a message to prepare hearts to receive God in flesh.
Can you hear him from the rocky crags and crevices of the Judean wilderness?
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand . . . Bear fruit in keeping with repentance . . . Indeed the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; so every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire . . .”
After 400 years of waiting for a word from God, He breaks the silence with the birth announcement of a repentance-preaching prophet! And the Word from God to a people with hardened hearts was the same as it is today: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”
John the Baptist’s ministry was foretold hundreds of years earlier and was the fulfillment of this prophecy:
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; Make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill brought low; The crooked places shall be made straight and the rough places smooth; The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’” (Isaiah 40:3-5)
How do we prepare for celebrating Advent?
How do we prepare our hearts for God’s glory to be seen in our lives?
The same way John told God’s people to prepare—through repentance.
Pause and ask the Spirit, the same Spirit who filled John the Baptist as a babe in the womb, to search your heart. Ask Him to soften any hard places, to open your eyes to areas of disobedience, to convict you of sin that needs to be dislodged, brought down, made smooth—basically any sin that needs to be repented of in order to prepare your heart for the kingdom work God has for you today.