I loved visiting my great-grandparents’ home when I was a little boy, especially at this time of year when they taped their Christmas cards all over the door frame in their living room. So many Christmas cards! S0 many colors! And way too much glitter!
Growing up I started to receive Christmas cards too, and once I shook them to see if any money or checks would fall out, I followed my grandparents’ model and used them for decorations. 🙂
But I didn’t read too deeply into the messages on the cards. Honestly, I hardly read what they said, for they were pretty predictable: a generic “Season’s Greetings!”, a Christianized “Blessed Christmas!” or some goofy photos of elves and reindeer.
This week I’ve been wondering… what would a Christmas card from John the Baptist say?
If you got one in your mailbox, you’d tear the envelope open and pull out a card with a scene of the Judean wilderness on the front. A short poem would start out like this:
“Christmas has come once again to our land
And I’m sending a message you must understand”
Then you’d open it up. There would be no check or cash, but something much more important:
“Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand!”
Okay, so that could arguably cross the border of sacred and goofy, but I’m sure John the Baptist would settle for nothing less than that in a Christmas greeting.
Matthew 3:1-12 introduces the adult John the Baptist, who we read about last when he was a baby in Luke 1. John was prophesied about in Malachi 4:5-6, and we’ve seen that God fulfilled His promise to send John ahead of His Son Jesus to prepare people for His arrival.
What does John preach? The same thing he’d likely put in his Christmas cards (Matthew 3:1-3):
In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” For this is He who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said,
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord;
make his paths straight.’ ”
We’re right in the middle of the time to prepare, friends. That first advent of Jesus was preceded by John the Baptist and his proclamation of the necessity of repentance from sin. As we prepare for Christ’s second advent, we need to heed and obey that command to repent.
“Repent” is a command with force. You must hear it as from a drill sergeant: “Re-PENT!” You would stop in your tracks from such a command. You would turn around to see who was issuing that call. And that’s what repentance is: turning from your sin and turning to Jesus Christ. Repentance is decidedly agreeing with God that you are going your own cursed way and then turning toward Him to yield to Him in humble faith.
Repentance is humbling, for we must admit we are not right. So hard for each of us! Yet that is the command.
But the command leads to life: “the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”
In that day, this expression meant that the fulness of God’s plan to rescue sinners and glorify Himself was taking place as His Son Jesus arrived to walk the earth. To heal the sick. To show His rule over all nature. To raise the dead. To die Himself for sinners and come back to life.
In our day, this expression is a gracious warning and announcement of Jesus Christ’s second coming as King of all.
Will you respond with humility to John the Baptist’s Christmas card? “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”