Scripture Reading: Luke 1:5-17, Isaiah 40:1-5, Malachi 3:1-4, Mark 1:1-8
My sweet four-year-old girl nuzzled into my arms as I was putting her to bed, and said, “Momma, I have an important question for you. How many more days until Christmas?”
It was AUGUST.
As I dove into the text for today’s Advent reading, I was reminded of her childlike longing for Christmas to come. I know that as a kid it has a lot to do with getting presents, drinking hot chocolate, and eating Christmas cookies, but I believe there is something about that longing for Christmas that God has etched into our hearts. In our longings, big and small, we seem built for anticipation. And in the waiting, we can see how God wants His people to be prepared for their coming Rescuer. Through His prophet Malachi, the Lord promises to send one to lead them in their preparation:
“See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the Lord Almighty.
- Malachi 3:1
I love that God knew we would need someone to tell us to pay attention. And so He sent John the Baptist, whose message would bring comfort even as it called us to “prepare the way for the Lord in the wilderness’” (Isaiah 40:1). God knew our distracted and discontented hearts would need to hear a voice to cut through the chaos of this world—a herald pointing to the good news to come, saying, “Don’t miss this!”
John’s story begins with two faithful parents, Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth. “They had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; and they were both well along in years” (Luke 1:7). Yet suddenly, one day while Zechariah is serving as a priest before God, an angel appears to him with this joyous message:
“Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife, Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John.”
- Luke 1:13
Can you imagine hearing this news? After being barren for the entirety of their marriage, a son is promised. Years of faithful service. Years of longing. Years of prayers for a child seemingly unanswered. And here, God promises a son, John, who will “make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:17).
How fitting it is that the messenger who is helping God’s people prepare to meet the Messiah was born after years and years of his own parents’ waiting, longing, and hoping. It reminds me that there is a Messiah for those who are suffering silently from all kinds of broken dreams, deep wounds, and unmet longings. It reminds me that Jesus is near to the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18), and our suffering in the wilderness isn’t the end of the story.
Do you find yourself in the desert today, facing the wilderness? Are there places in your heart that need tending to, places the Lord wants to prepare the way for His healing? Advent is a season of anticipation, one that invites us to make room for Immanuel in our hearts. That may look like giving ourselves some margin to rest and soak in His Word. Or it may mean turning to Him in repentance, allowing Him to tenderly search our hearts and root out remnants of unforgiveness and fear and doubt.
Whatever He’s calling us to, may we do it faithfully, so we can prepare even the hardest places in our lives to remember and be encouraged that the Lord we are seeking has indeed come. And may we be like expectant four-year-olds as we anticipate the celebration of the arrival of our Savior and Lord.