5 Ways to Prepare the Way for the Lord (at Christmas and Beyond)

design7John the Baptist was chosen by God to get people ready for the first Advent -Christmas. You and I are chosen by God to get people ready for the second Advent –the soon return of Jesus Christ!

Isaiah prophesied about the coming Good News: “Every valley shall be exalted And every mountain and hill brought low; The crooked places shall be made straight And the rough places smooth; The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (Isaiah 40:4-5) Think about it! The birth of the Savior removed the obstacles that kept people from God. Jesus broke down the barriers that kept sinners away. No wonder Christmas is the “most wonderful time of the year.” People far and wide are given access to a personal relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ!

Handel’s Messiah, “Every valley shall be exalted…” is a very exciting piece of musical genius. The message, based upon Isaiah’s prophecy is, everything is about to change! Jesus is coming to earth in the form of a baby and, because of the Incarnation, nothing will remain the same. We celebrate His birth!

But now, since Jesus came the first time, we must prepare people for His return. As John the Baptist went before Jesus announcing His arrival, we must precede His coming by announcing that He is about to return. The responsibility to prepare others for the coming of Jesus is not John’s alone. We also bear the responsibility of letting people know about the Lord.

Let’s think about five ways that we may do this:

  1. Focus on the Gospel: Good News = Jesus! Jesus is the hope that the world desperately needs. Don’t get caught up in the trappings of the holiday; put Jesus first. Our lives will point to His second coming.
  1. Stay Grateful. Let’s avoid the temptation to become greedy. We have so many things; God has been so good to us. Let’s express our thankfulness to God for all that He has provided and let’s learn the art of contentment.
  1. Make the most of the season. These are evil days and the Word tells us to make the most of the time in days like these (Ephesians 5:15-16). People all around us are hurting and they are more open to spiritual solutions during the holiday season. Be sensitive to the needs of others and make the most of your opportunities to share God’s love with them.
  1. Invest in eternity. Is someone in your life impossible to buy a gift for? While we should buy gifts for one another, possibly we should consider a present that could change eternity. Rather than another gift from a family member, I would rather see a donation to an orphanage, support for a missionary family, a gift for a nursing home resident or a Bible for someone who has none. Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:19-21 to lay up treasures in heaven rather than on earth. Let’s invest in eternity!
  1. Commit to live Christmas every day of the year. One reason why so many people are sad and depressed during the holiday is that they focus on one day rather than upon a lifestyle. December 26 is not the end of Christmas; it is the beginning of a Christmas lifestyle. The results of the birth of Jesus are every day and they last forever. Let’s celebrate as much throughout the year as we do during the holidays. We celebrate by anticipating the coming of the Lord!

An appropriate celebration of the first Advent helps us to prepare for the second Advent. Let’s prepare those we love for the coming of Jesus. Christmas is the best time of year to become a Christ-follower!

Our job:

Prepare ourselves for the most sacred time of the year and for what is just ahead.

Prepare our families.

Prepare our church.

Prepare our community.

Get ready, Jesus is coming!

The 5 Hardest Things I’ve Done as a Pastor

The 5 Hardest Things I've Done as a Pastor

When you are a pastor, you have a lot of really great days. But you also have your share of bad ones. These are the times when your responsibilities force you into spots that you’d rather not be in. In thinking back over the last 25 plus years, I have mostly good memories, but some difficult times stand out.

Warning: the list below may not be what you’re expecting and it may be difficult to read.

The 5 Hardest Things I’ve Done as a Pastor:

Watch a child die. While we’ve had that unfortunate experience a few times, the day a little boy hemorrhaged to death while his mother held him in her arms is burned into my memory.
Inform two children their father had died. This is a conversation that no one wants to have. I still recall their response.
Identify the bodies of a father and his four-year-old daughter who died in a fire. The sight and smell created lasting trauma for me.
Watch a young leader and friend die a slow and excruciating death. I still argue with God about that one.
Preach the funeral of a 17 year-old suicide victim. There is no adequate way to prepare for that.

No, these events were not about me. But I was there. This is not an effort to garner sympathy. Of course, I did not hurt as much as the family members of these people hurt, but I did hurt.

Notice something about all of the above events – they all involved death. They did not involve a church fight or an argument over money or even a moral failure. Here is the purpose of this article: Sometimes the things that we think are serious are not. The things that really matter involve life and death and eternity.

I hope that the Church can begin to focus more on issues of eternity.