Gospel Reading: Luke 3:1-6
1 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiber'i-us Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Iturae'a and Trachoni'tis, and Lysa'ni-as tetrarch of Abile'ne, 2 in the high-priesthood of Annas and Ca'iaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechari'ah in the wilderness; 3 and he went into all the region about the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 4 As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, "The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. 5 Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth; 6 and all flesh shall see the salvation of God."
Old Testament Reading: Baruch 5:1-9 (Deutero-canonical)
1 Take off the garment of your sorrow and affliction, O Jerusalem, and put on forever the beauty of the glory from God. 2 Put on the robe of the righteousness that comes from God; put on your head the diadem of the glory of the Everlasting; 3 for God will show your splendor everywhere under heaven. 4 For God will give you evermore the name, "Righteous Peace, Godly Glory." 5 Arise, O Jerusalem, stand upon the height; look toward the east, and see your children gathered from west and east at the word of the Holy One, rejoicing that God has remembered them. 6 For they went out from you on foot, led away by their enemies; but God will bring them back to you, carried in glory, as on a royal throne. 7 For God has ordered that every high mountain and the everlasting hills be made low and the valleys filled up, to make level ground, so that Israel may walk safely in the glory of God. 8 The woods and every fragrant tree have shaded Israel at God's command. 9 For God will lead Israel with joy, in the light of his glory, with the mercy and righteousness that come from him.
Meditation: Do you recognize the word of God and the message which the Lord wishes to speak to you today? Luke the evangelist tells us that the "word of God came to John in the wilderness" (Luke 3:2). Who was John the Baptist and what is the significance of the message which he received and delivered to the people of his day? In dramatic fashion Luke tells us when John came on the world scene. The world's rulers paled in reference to this son of Zechariah, a priest who served in the temple at Jerusalem. John's mission was to prepare the way for God's Annointed King who would come to establish God's rule above all other kings and authorities.
John stood at a pivotal juncture in the history of God's dealing with his people. He bridged the Old and New Testaments, also known as the Old and New Covenants which God made with his people. John was a prophet, a spokesman for God. Luke tells us that "the word of God came to John" when he was dwelling in the wilderness of Judaea (Luke 3:2). John was pre-eminently the servant of the Word, the Word of God who became flesh for our sake and for our salvation (John 1:14). Why was John living in the barren wilderness of Judaea? John was called from an early age to devote himself to prayer and to the word of God. God led John into the wilderness, away from the noise and distractions of everyday life. There God taught John in the solitude of the desert and prepared him for a prophetic ministry that would turn the hearts of his people to receive their long-awaited Messiah. John is the last of the Old Testament prophets who pointed the way to the coming of the Messiah. He is the first of the new Testament witnesses and martyrs who suffered on account of his testimony to Jesus as the true Messiah and "Lamb of God" who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29).
In the ancient world when a king decided to tour his kingdom, he first sent his courier ahead to prepare the way. John is the courier and great herald of the Messiah King who proclaims to all the peoples that the impending reign of God is now very close at hand. Isaiah had long ago prophesied the role of the Forerunner of the Messiah (Isaiah 40:3-5). John undoubtedly took this word to heart as he searched the scriptures and reflected on the word of God in the wilderness.
How can we, like John the Baptist, prepare ourselves for the coming of Jesus Christ and his everlasting kingdom of righteousness, peace and joy (Romans 1:17)? John the Baptist tells us that the first step is conversion and repentance (Matthew 3:2; Luke 3:7) – turning our hearts and minds away from sin, indifference, and unbelief, to a sincere trust in God and submission to his word. Luke's gospel emphasizes the universal call of the gospel to all peoples without distinction. He quotes from the prophet Isaiah that "all flesh shall see the salvation of God" (Isaiah 40:5; 52:10). John stood at the door of a new era of grace and salvation. He saw from a distance what Jesus the Messiah would accomplish through his death and resurrection – pardon for our sins, healing and restoration, and eternal life for all who would believe in the Lord Jesus. Are you hungry for the Word of God and do you allow God's word to transform the way you view, think, and live your life?
"Lord Jesus, you are the Word of God and Savior of the world. Fill me with your Holy Spirit and teach me your ways that I may grow in the knowledge of your love and truth. May I bring the joy and good news of the Gospel to all I meet."
1 When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dream.
2 Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, "The LORD has done great things for them."
3 The LORD has done great things for us; we are glad.
4 Restore our fortunes, O LORD, like the watercourses in the Negeb!
5 May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy!
6 He that goes forth weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.