“Behold I send my messenger before thy lace, which shall prepare
thy way before thee.”
Preparation is the main theme of this day. Today’s gospel fulfils Isaiah’s
prophecy of preparation which we read yesterday (Is. 40.3). Christ points
to John the Baptist, who prepares the way for his own coming. The Church
prepares us for the coming of our Lord “by turning the hearts of the disobedient
to the wisdom of the just.” The preparation for Christ’s coming in humility
is also the preparation for his coming in judgement. But “judge nothing
before the time, until the Lord come,” for “he that judgeth is the Lord,”
explains St. Paul.
In the face of his coming in judgement, both final and ever-present,
“the ministers of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God” prepare
his way by preparing his people. This preparation focuses on the ordained
ministry, by whom the whole people of God are reminded of their Christian
calling. The Advent Ember Days fall on the Wednesday, Friday and Saturday
of this week. These are days of preparation through solemn prayer and penitence.
They are also traditionally appropriate times for ordinations.
This preparation aims that all may be found faithful. Faithfulness is
the wisdom of the just, the knowledge that Jesus Christ is our righteousness.
John the Baptist prepares us for the coming of Christ, whose righteousness
is our restoration: “The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk,
the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and
the poor have the gospel preached to them.” Judgement and humility come
together in Jesus Christ our Redeemer. Our restoration involves both God’s
judgement upon our sins and his humility in coming to bear our sins. Our
preparation for his coming must be patient endurance in faithfulness, and
an everfaithful watchfulness “that at thy second coming to judge the world
we may be found an acceptable people in thy sight.” Christ at his coming
“will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest
the counsels of the hearts; and then shall every man have praise of God.”
Let every heart prepare him room!
The daily office readings for this week echo and enlarge upon the theme
of preparation. The Old Testament lessons (Is. 42-50) continue reading
from that part of Isaiah known as “The Book of the Consolation of Israel”
(Is. 40-55). God comforts his people and prepares them for salvation. Israel’s
deliverance from the Babylonian captivity and her new covenant with God
show God’s far-reaching and universal love. Israel must now be “a light
to the nations that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth” (Is.
49.6). Christ comes to deliver us from the Babylon of our sins and he is
“that true light, which Iighteth every man that cometh into the world.”
We continue reading from St. Mark’s Gospel at Morning Prayer. The miracles
of healing and the preaching to the poor reveal that Christ is “he that
should come,” whose way John the Baptist has prepared. Christ’s words and
deeds prepare the way for his sacrifice, the judgement upon our sins and
our salvation. The Transfiguration prepares us for that salvation in the
vision of Christ’s divine majesty. Our preparation must be the humility
of service (Mk. 9.35) and the faithful simplicity of children (Mk. 10.15).
We conclude our preparation for Christ’s coming in judgement by completing
our reading of the Book of Revelation at Evening Prayer this week. The
Word of God overthrows Babylon in judgement. In John’s vision, “Babylon”
represents all that opposes the goodness of God. But salvation and glory
and power belong to our God,” whose judgement upon our sins prepares us
for the marriage supper of the Lamb. The Holy City, the new Jerusalem--the
Church--is the bride of Christ prepared and ready for the coming of the
Bridegroom. "Behold the dwelling of God is with men.” “Come, Lord Jesus.”