Preparing and Repenting
Luke 3:1-6

Dr. William S. Epps, Senior Pastor

Sunday, December 5, 2021
Prayer: Lord we are grateful for this special time of the year where we get merry like Christmas and Happy like New Year. Advent is a reminder about the gift you gave to the world in Christ. For the gift of that life and its legacy we are grateful. May we always remember the love you expressed in him and let that love ignite in our capacity to do the same. In Jesus name we pray, Amen. 
1Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene, 2Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness. 3And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins; 4As it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. 5Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth; 6And all flesh shall see the salvation of God. 
Luke 3:1-6
On the second Sunday of Advent we light a candle as a symbol of proclamation.
May the word sent from God through the prophets lead us to the way of salvationO come Emmanuel! O come thou Wisdom from on high, and order all things far and nighTo us the path of knowledge show, and cause us in her ways to goRejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel - Shall come to thee, O Israel. 
This is the second Sunday of Advent: We light these candles as a sign of our faith that the God we worship is not far from us and that we can clear the way for God to come and dwell with us. We light these candles in faith that company is coming.  O Come, O Come Emmanuel.
In ancient times, when a king was going to visit a city, he would send before him someone to herald his coming, someone to announce that he would be arriving soon. The herald would go around the city, and go before the leaders of the city, telling them all, “The king is coming. He will be here any day. So clean up your lives. Make sure you are all in obedience to the king’s commands so that you will not be punished when he arrives.”

Consider what it means to prepare to be ready to welcome
the Lord into your life.  
Monday, December 6, 2021
This herald also served as a city inspector. He would go around the city and make a list of things that needed to be fixed. He would tell them, “Clean up your city. Sweep your streets. Get rid of all the garbage lying around. Round up any criminals to make the city safe. Fix the roads; make them smooth and straight. Make sure the town is gleaming. Make sure the city is fit for a king to ride through.” It was an embarrassment for that city, and the people of the city, if they were not prepared when the king did arrive. It was also an insult to the king if they had not prepared properly for his arrival. If he came, and they were not prepared, he might mete out some judgment and punishment upon the city and its rulers.
There is a lot to be fixed in our world.  Poverty, climate change, gun control, prison reform, homelessness, income inequality, judicial reform, racism, sexism just to name a few. Imagine parading this before the King who expected you to prepare the way and make the highway straight. That seems to suggest that you are not accustom to doing what the King would want you to do to keep the place presentable, clean, and pristine as a reflection of your diligence in fulfilling your duty and responsibilities.  
As we look at Luke 3, this is what we see going on. The King is coming, and He has sent a herald to announce His imminent arrival. The King, of course, is Jesus Christ. The Gospel of Matthew brings this out very clearly, but we have also seen that Christ is King in the first two chapters of Luke. The angel told Mary in Luke 1:32 that her son would sit on the throne of His father David, and He would reign over Israel forever, and of His kingdom there would be no end. Zacharias’ prophecy about Christ in Luke 1:68-75 said much the same thing. When Jesus was born, the angels came and trumpeted His birth and gave Him a kingly welcome.
Consider what it means to get everything ready when expecting company to visit as an expression of how delighted you are that company is coming.  
Tuesday, December 7,2021
But the herald, “the one who will pronounce His coming,” is John the Baptizer instead of John the Baptist, because, frankly, the Bible doesn’t tell us his religious denomination. Ha! But John has come as a herald to make sure that the king’s subjects are well prepared for the king's coming. John has come to prepare the way.
Firstly, the word of the Lord came to John in the wilderness.
Notice the list of persons who appear to be in charge of things. He begins with the most formidable figure of Tiberius, emperor of Rome. Then he lists the governors of various territories in the vicinity of where Jesus’ ministry would take place – Pilate, Herod, Philip and Lysanias. Then he moves on to religious authorities, Annas and Caiaphas. The rulers of earth are all in their respective places. 
But wait! In the midst of the status quo, Luke writes that “the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness.”
John is neither emperor nor governor nor priest, but it is to John that “the word of God” comes to, an unlikely person.  And it comes not in Rome nor in any other seat of power, but “in the wilderness”, an unexpected place indeed.
The selection of John as the vehicle of God’s word reminds the church that the word of God does emerge in unlikely places from unlikely persons. The rulers of this world and the rulers of the church continue in their ways, content with things as they are, perhaps lulled into believing that they are in fact the rulers. The advent of the infant Jesus will demonstrate that real power lies elsewhere. Maybe the word has come to you as an unlikely person in an unlikely place to be a herald that the king is coming and we need to get our act and house in order.
Preparation is the key to what people do in all aspects of their live. You plan and prepare what you want to do with your life.  You plan and prepare to celebrate significant occasions in your life and milestones that are important to you. You plan for special days such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Day, Valentine’s Day, and Easter, to name a few. You have heard it said, people don’t plan to fail, they fail to plan
The word of God that comes to John consists of a proclamation of “a baptism of repentance.” This proclamation not only prepares the way for the coming of Jesus, but anticipates the work of the church. We are the voice as the church, as a congregation of believers in Christ, “crying in the wilderness, prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.”  John’s action serves as a prototype of the church’s preaching of baptism and its declaration that in Jesus, God forgives human sins. The word of the Lord comes to each of us about the need to repent. 
Consider what it means that the discovery of the Lord’s presence comes from unlikely places and persons.  
Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Secondly, repentance is something you do.
Repentance is the message that came to and from John. We are all in need of repenting in order to be reconciled. Repentance is sincere contrition, grief, and remorse of actions toward God and other human beings producing a genuine desire to make amends for your actions, which leads to better living which are the fruits of repentance.   
“Repentance” is the English translation of the Greek term ‘metanoia’, which literally means “change of mind.” Repentance expresses sorrow for the ways in which we have offended God and one another (Ps. 51:4), but it is also much more. Repentance is a change of mind and actions wherein we cease our approval of justification of bad behavior. Repentance is a decisive reorientation of one’s life which produces the fruit of the spirit, love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23 
God knows we need to repent to reconcile with God and one another. Repenting is something you do. You change your attitude and actions. Only you can do that. With repentance comes acknowledgment, affirmation, and assertion. We acknowledge that we have probably not done all that we could have done. (You know the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak /Matthew 26:41). We affirm that we have been content in our comfort, even though there were those who were discomforted. (Woe to you who are complacent in Zion, and to you who feel secure/Amos 6:1).  We assert that we are flawed, frail creatures of clay and dust and prone to personal proclivities of prejudices and selfishness. (“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of the God.” /Romans 3:23) 
This does not mean we repent only once and then go our merry way. No! Just like fruit is produced in its season, so the seasons of our lives produce fruit as the seasons change and situations require. New occasions teach new duties and you produce the fruit that is necessary to match the circumstances with the changing conditions of life.  This subsequent repentance flows from and confirms the initial act wherein we realize our desperate state, admit our need of pardon, and come to Jesus in a childlike manner, continually reorienting our thinking to become more like Christ.  
Consider what it means to have a change of mind and behavior in order to receive and appreciate the Lord coming into your life.  
Thursday, December 9, 2021
Thirdly, we are told how to prepare the way for the Lord’s coming into our lives
Luke 3:4-6
In the context of Advent, John serves as the one who reminds Christians of the need to be prepared for the Christ who is to come.  The task of making the highways workable again, repairing them so that all flesh can indeed see God’s salvation, is the task that the church dare not neglect.
Notice how we prepare for Christmas - we prepare to get gifts and cards to share with those whom we treasure; we socialize amiably with associates, co-workers and friends. COVID may have you modify some of your plans but still you prepare for the holiday. You get merry like Christmas and Happy like New Year. 
Believers in Christ are reminded that they are to prepare the way of the Lord. You prepare the way by “Cleaning up, fixing, repairing what is broken; making things smooth and making sure you are looking good because you are on display.  As a king rides through the city, make sure it is fit and worthy of his attention.
Consider what it means that we are all singularly responsible for preparing to alter and change our attitude and actions in order to prepare to
receive the Lord’s coming into our lives and world.  
Friday, December 10, 2021
John quotes Isaiah chapter 40:3-5 as the voice crying in the wilderness. You may remember that the children of Israel where in Babylonian captivity. They received a word from the Lord to comfort them. 
We have been expecting that God would prepare a highway through the desert for these exiles to return to Jerusalem. What we find, however, is the opposite—Jerusalem is to prepare a highway for God. 
It is the wilderness of their lives and the desert of their hearts they are to prepare a way for the Lord, making the path straight, by repenting with the assurance that “Every valley will be filled and every mountain and hill brought low and the rough places smooth.” If they are to prepare for the Lord’s coming, their preparation must involve some sort of discipline and reorientation. The voice does not specify the form that their preparation should take. It is enough for these exiles to know that they must prepare for the Lord’s coming. Their history and traditions will inform and provide some insight about that being done, for as a people they have done it before. Following the baptism of repentance and preparing the way of the Lord, you then hear: “Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low(v. 4a). These hills and valleys are poetic metaphors for the obstacles that have prevented them from receiving the Lord in their lives. What are the valleys and hills in your life? Is it the valley of despair into which you devolved into apathy and complacency, feeling helpless and powerless? Is it the lack of faith that has filled you with doubt about the presence of the Lord in your life? The Lord encourages you that He is coming: You do your part. I will do my part
“The crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places smooth” (v. 4b). This is another way of expressing the same thought— you do your part and the Lord will do the Lord’s part. 
“The glory (kebod) of Yahweh shall be revealed” (v. 5a). The word glory (kebod) is used in the Bible to speak of various things, but is used to speak of God’s glory—an aura associated with God’s appearance that reveals God’s majesty to humans. 
“...and all flesh (basar—flesh) shall see it together” (v. 5b). This is a surprise.  The vision of God’s glory shall be granted to “all people” or “all flesh.” The vision won’t be limited to the select group of people – but to ordinary people as well.
Consider what needs to be leveled and straighten in your life to receive the Lord’s coming as you reflect on the hills and valleys and crooked places the Lord has seen you through already.  
Saturday, December 11, 2021
This is the second Sunday of Advent: We light candles as a sign of our faith that the God we worship is not far from us and that we can clear the way for that God to come and dwell with us. We light these candles in faith that company is coming.  O Come, O Come Emmanuel.
May the word sent from God through the prophets lead us to the way of salvation:  O come Emmanuel! O come thou Wisdom from on high, and order all things far and nighTo us the path of knowledge show, and cause us in her ways to goRejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel - Shall come to thee, O Israel. 
More about Jesus would I know, / More of His grace to others show; /
More of His saving fullness see, / More of His love who died for me.
More, more about Jesus, / More, more about Jesus; /
More of His saving fullness see,
More of His love who died for me.
More about Jesus let me learn, / More of His holy will discern; /
Spirit of God, my teacher be, Showing the things of Christ to me.
More about Jesus, in His Word, / Holding communion with my Lord; /
Hearing His voice in every line, / Making each faithful saying mine.
More about Jesus on His throne, / Riches in glory all His own; / More of His kingdom’s sure increase; / More of His coming, Prince of Peace. 

Consider what it means to learn more about Jesus as you prepare and repent this Christmas, while welcoming the compassion, grace and mercy that come from God through Christ.  

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