Participating in Preparation


Mark 1:7 He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. 


John the Baptist fully understood his role and didn’t want anyone to think otherwise. A great preacher who drew huge crowds, he could have lived into his popularity, but he refused. This ministry was not to be about him, but about pointing in the direction of the Messiah. Compared to Christ, John was not even worthy of being a slave, and he was committed to completing the most mundane of tasks. He was to participate in the details of the preparation, making way for the arrival of Christ.  


This weekend didn’t quite go as planned. Traveling to the airport on Friday morning I anticipated a trip where I would get to meet a whole new group of church leaders, and share thoughts on the season of Advent and the arrival of God incarnate. Little did I know that snow in Atlanta would upend the travel plans of thousands of people, including me. After hours of waiting, the announcement finally came that the flight would simply be cancelled. It was time to grab my bags and head back home, suddenly having a “snow day.” Feeling a little like Thomas Freedman who wrote, “Thank you for being late,” I realized I had been given the gift of time. A little bit of free and unstructured time which was completely unexpected. What would I do with these precious hours?

I hadn’t been able to spend much time preparing our home for Christmas. My husband had put up the tree, but it still had no ornaments and a few boxes of Christmas items were stacked by the kitchen door. My little granddaughter Mackenzie was prepared to help me bake cookies, if only I had the time. Suddenly I had the time to slow down and get engaged in the preparation for this season. Both Mackenzie and Alice “helped” me decorate the Christmas tree. Then Mackenzie pulled up her stool and stood by the island in the kitchen, helping me bake cookies. Turning on some traditional Christmas music, we began our task. We measured ingredients together, and put them in the bowl while the mixer was running, and when we were finished, we licked the beaters! All important to the process of baking good cookies. We cut out “little twinkle stars” and “shooting stars,” and then very generously coated them with sprinkles when they were baked. It was all fun, but it was in preparation. Soon guests will be coming and we want to be prepared. 

In this Christmas season we do much to be prepared for the different events in which we fellowship together. While all of this is fun (and maybe a tad stressful), it is done in preparation for the culmination of the season. Maybe it’s a dinner party or some other event, but the desire is to be prepared. We all know that the preparation is a lot of work, but it’s certainly not the main thing. What would it be like to prepare your home for Christmas, and then never have Christmas come? It wouldn’t even make sense. 

Every day we are to live in preparation for the return of Jesus. He has come, and he will come again! We are to be engaged in the work of preparation, helping to point others toward the great day when Jesus returns. We are not busy, just to be busy, but with great purpose and direction. The things that we do are nothing in comparison to Christ — they are just preparation. 

Every disciple of Jesus Christ, whether a layperson or a minister, should do all for the glory of God, in preparation of pointing others toward God. I began this devotional thought before church on Sunday, but didn’t quite get it finished. I left for church, feeling the the Lord still had something more to say to me about preparation. I assumed it would be something that God wanted to speak to me through the sermon. The message of the day really did speak to my heart, but it was something else that God had in mind. So often we worry about the results of what we are doing. If we’re in ministry, we are wanting to see the church grow, and people come to Christ. Suddenly, I was reminded that Christ doesn’t even know the time of his return, and so it’s not the results, it’s the effort we put into preparation. We are to be busy doing what God asks us to do, but leave the results up to the Lord. I walked into church and my husband was talking to a man sitting in the pew, about three-quarters of the way back. I stopped and my husband introduced me to “Bob.” He immediately told me that he used to work at NAPA auto parts with my husband and a whole group of Seminarians, nearly 40 years ago. He said he’d brought his Bible with him, an NIV which had been a gift from the Seminarians. They had each signed that Bible, and had been witnesses to Jesus Christ, engaged in the preparation. 

Just as I was able to joyfully bake cookies in anticipation of Christmas, so, we joyfully participate in the preparation of Christ’s return. We have no idea when it will be. We have no idea when our preparation will come to fruition, but that doesn’t matter. As faithful followers, we continue to be engaged in preparing the way for the Messiah, for the one coming is far greater than anything we can imagine. 


Lord, thank you for a small glimpse of your powerful work — in your time. Amen. 


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