Waking up three hours before work was not what I had in mind to start this week. It did, however, give me the prime opportunity to start a morning reading routine. Morning reading routines have often been all-or-nothing for me; either I get up really early and read a ton or I sleep in, not read anything, and almost show up late to work. Got to make life suspenseful, right?
Anyhow, I started reading Luke’s Gospel. I wish I could say it’s my favorite Gospel, but they are all my favorites. Luke’s unique elements, though, begin with the first chapter. Matthew is the only other Gospel with a birth narrative, but Luke has two birth narratives; one for Jesus and one for John the Baptist. Where one might expect Luke to start with the birth of the Savior of the World, he starts with his fore-runner, John.
What hits me about this back story to John the Baptist is his role in God’s story. Every Gospel reveals John’s task, but Luke has Gabriel, one of God’s most prominent angels, delivering the news to Zechariah, John’s father. If you aren’t familiar with the story, Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth believe they’ll never have children because it seemed to them that Elizabeth was barren. To their wonderful surprise, declares Gabriel, they’re going to have a son. Yet what is said about him is the most important thing:
“And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous – to make ready a people prepared for the Lord,” (1:17).
Later in the same chapter, Zechariah regains his ability to speak and sings a song after John’s birth. He sings, “And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,” (1:76).
In Luke 3 Isaiah 40:3 is used to describe John, “A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him,’” (3:4b). While all the Synoptic Gospels quote Isaiah 40:3, Luke emphasizes John the Baptist’s role in how God would rescue His people: He prepares the way. He gets things ready.
What I think God was asking me was what am I preparing? Or, to be more precise, how am I preparing?
Back in high school, I golfed a lot. I even skipped soccer during my junior year just so that I could play more golf. I wanted to do well for the upcoming season and the only way that would happen was if I practiced as much as possible. Back then, Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh, and Phil Mickelson were among the top five of the world’s best golfers. What did they all have in common besides a ridiculous ability to hit a golf ball? A ridiculous work ethic in preparing for each tournament.
It is no mystery that the best athletes in any sport are the ones who prepare the most. They’re like Vijay; the first on the driving range and the last to leave. Every swing, every shot, and every possible scenario is played out in practice so that when it comes time to compete, nothing will catch them off guard.
What would this look like spiritually? How do we prepare the way for God to work in our lives? Prayer, reading Scripture, meeting with fellow believers – all of those are helpful, but what else? Are we practicing what we preach? Are we actively seeking to share Jesus – not a pamphlet, business card, or tract about Him – with those around us?
It’s not a surprise that on the day I decide to start preparing for my day more effectively is the day God reminds me of the importance of preparation. Jesus needed John to prepare things for Him because maybe who He was and what He had to say was more than the people could bear. I think the same could be said for many today; they’re not ready to receive Him. So in essence, we’re the ones to warm people up for Christ; to get in a spot where they might be more ready, willing, and able to receive Him.
Yet this immediately raises another difficult task: Are we preparing ourselves for this task? Like I said above, are we practicing Jesus’ words, praying as often as possible, and sharing all we have with the church we’re a part of? In order to prepare others, we must be prepared already. In order to give Jesus to others, we must already have Him.
I’m not suggesting we all quit the day jobs and become missionaries; I’m simply saying we’re all missionaries wherever we are. So if that’s the case, how are we treating our coworkers? Are we loving the regular people in our lives – the baristas, bankers, and bosses? Are we already in the habit of embodying Jesus so that whether we’re aware of it or not we share Him with others? It is by no means an easy task, but it’s the task before each of us.
It might help to think through every aspect of your daily life and the people you come across. How are you treating them? Could you treat them better – showing more kindness, gentleness, patience, self control, etc.? When I consider how well or not well I’m preparing the way for God to work, I realize there is always room for improvement.