Advice on How Not to Prepare: Reflections on Advent 2, Matthew 3:1-12
Our daughter Rebecca and her husband Dallas are expecting their first child, a boy to be named Graham. He's a week past his due date. His young parents have been preparing for him for months, and now everything is ready for him. They have set up his crib; they have filled a shelf in their closet with his baby toiletries; they have assembled the dresser that holds his baby clothes; and they have set up his high chair, bassinette, and swing. While others have certainly helped them prepare, they themselves have taken the initiative to make specific physical preparations for their baby.
John the Baptist challenges us to make specific spiritual preparations for our baby, Jesus, who has now grown to adulthood, who is about to begin his public ministry.
Denial, excuses, and inaction won't cut it. Preparation will. There is a story about Martin Luther who read the scripture "Do not worry about what you are to say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that very hour what you ought to say" (Lk. 12:12). He decided to take it at its word and so he worked all week on his commentary on the Psalms and did not work a bit on his sermon for the Wittenberg Cathedral that coming Sunday. He recounts later that when he climbed into the high pulpit and looked out over the sea of upturned faces, the Spirit did indeed speak to him. It whispered in his ear these words: "Martin, you didn't prepare."
John the Baptist doesn't bother to whisper. He shouts out into the wilderness the strident message:
"Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near!"
Craig Blomberg, Preaching the Parables: From Responsible Interpretation to Powerful Proclamation. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House 2004.
Alyce M. McKenzie is the George W. and Nell Ayers Le Van Professor of Preaching and Worship at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University.