3 In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, 2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”[a] 3 This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said,
“The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.’”
4 Now John wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5 Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, 6 and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.
I love the famous work of art above, depicting John the Baptist. He's large, and formidable in his camel-hair coat. As we have been reflecting upon, Advent is a season of preparation, and preparation is something that God cares deeply about. While we don't always think of John the Baptist when we think of the traditional Christmas story, his ministry is an essential part of God's plan; whenever God acts in big ways, God provides his people with the means to prepare themselves.
John taught preparation through repentance. Do you ever wonder why we share in the prayer of confession at church before we hear the scripture reading and the sermon that explains it? It's because we know that we need to prepare our hearts by first coming clean to God about the ways that we have failed. John came first, preaching repentance. Then comes Jesus with his gospel of love. It's a rich story that reflects our own experience. Advent is a season of preparation, and with it comes a sense of getting right with God. If we prepare adequately, our holiday will be all the more special.