Welcome to our Advent sermon series! Believe it or not, Christmas Day is exactly four weeks from today. So to prepare ourselves to celebrate the coming of Jesus, we’re going to look at some of the Old Testament prophecies of the coming of the Savior, the Messiah.
A lot of us are kind of aware of these Old Testament prophecies, but we don’t really think about them very often. But they really are important, because these Old Testament prophecies are part of the proof that Jesus was who he said he was. They’re also part of the way people recognized Jesus and were able to believe that he was who he said he was. One of the reasons the birth of Jesus happened the way it did was to fulfill those Old Testament prophecies. That’s true of other aspects of Jesus’ life, too, but in this Advent season, we’re going to focus on the prophecies that refer to Jesus’ birth. There are a lot of them, more than we’ll be able to cover during Advent. But today, we’re going to look at a prophecy that said there would be a messenger to prepare people for Jesus’ coming.
We’re looking at the book of Isaiah, chapter forty. Now, as some of you may know, the book of Isaiah is not the most fun book to read. It’s an important book, and there’s a lot of good stuff in it, but a lot of it is Isaiah telling the people of Israel that they’re going to lose their independence and be taken over because they have not done what God wanted them to do. They’ve disobeyed God and abandoned God, so now God is going to leave them to their fate.
But every once in a while, there are some verses to give the people of Israel hope. And we’re looking at some of those verses today. God tells them that there will come a time when their sins have been paid for. And one of the ways they’ll know that is that there will be a voice calling: “In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God...The glory of the Lord will be revealed, and the people will see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
The voice that was calling turned out to be John the Baptist. He was the one whose words we heard in our second reading, the reading from Luke. John the Baptist lived in the wilderness, and he was preparing the way for the Lord.
If you read about who John the Baptist was, he really sounds kind of strange. We’re told that he wore clothes made out of camel’s hair. He ate locusts and wild honey. I mean, you read about him, and he actually sounds like kind of a nut.
But he was not a nut, and he was not treated as a nut. People came from all over the countryside came to see him. And yes, there may have been a few who came out just to see him, just for something to do, but there were thousands of people who heard and believed his message. And one of the reasons they heard and believed is because they knew about the prophecy from Isaiah. They recognized that he was the one who was calling in the wilderness.
And what was his message? His message was about the need to repent of your sins and ask for forgiveness for them. His message was of the need to be baptized, to be made clean. He was telling people that they needed to get themselves straightened out, to get right with God.
In other words, he was preparing the way for Jesus, helping make a straight highway over which Jesus’ message of salvation could travel. It was not a literal highway, not one for Jesus to physically walk on. The “highway” was the people themselves. People who would be ready to hear Jesus’ message and help him carry it forward.
Now, maybe you’re thinking, but why would Jesus need that? After all, Jesus was the Son of God, right? He had divine power. Why would he need someone to prepare the way? Why would he need someone to get things ready? Why did Jesus need help from John the Baptist or anyone else?
The reason, really, is that God has a plan. God has a plan that has been going on for thousands of years. And it’s a plan that will continue for however many years it is until Jesus comes again, whether that’s next year or a hundred thousand years from now.
We don’t always know what the plan is. But we do know that God has a plan. And what’s involved in a plan, any plan? A plan, whether it’s a plan for taking a trip or for making Thanksgiving dinner or for growing crops or for the salvation of the world, always requires an orderly sequence of events, right? It requires that certain things need to happen at certain times.
If we’re going on a trip, we figure out when we’re going to leave, what route we’re going to take, where we might stop along the way, when we’re going to get there, how long we’re staying, and when we’re going to come back. If we’re making Thanksgiving dinner, we figure out what we need, we get all the stuff together, we mix things at certain times, we put things in the oven at certain times, all that sort of thing. If we’re growing crops, we figure out when we need to have the seed, when we need to plant, all the kinds of things you do.
And God’s salvation of the world has a plan. That plan requires certain things to happen at certain times. Jesus needed to come at a certain time, he needed to do certain things, and he needed to be crucified at a certain time. Remember when Jesus would say things like “My time has not yet come” or “The time has not yet arrived”? Jesus knew there was a plan, and that things needed to happen at certain times.
And the messenger, John the Baptist, needed to come at a certain time and do certain things. He needed to prepare things for Jesus. He needed to get the people ready for Jesus’ message, so that when Jesus spread the message things would go the way they were supposed to go. And Isaiah needed to let people know that a messenger would be coming. And he did.
So here’s the point. God had a plan for Jesus’ life. God had a plan for John the Baptist’s life. And God had a plan for Isaiah’s life. Each one of these people was a part of God’s plan for salvation. Each of them needed to do certain things at certain times for God’s plan of salvation to go the way it’s supposed to go.
And so do you. And so do I. Think about that. You have a part in God’s plan of salvation. And so do I.
I hope you believe that. So many times, we think that God only has a plan for the great and the powerful. Sure, God might have a plan for a great prophet like Isaiah. God might have a plan for John the Baptist. God obviously had a plan for Jesus. And God might have a plan for people like Billy Graham and Mother Teresa and people like that. But God would not have a plan for me. After all, I’m nobody special. I don’t do anything that makes any difference. Yes, maybe I can make a little bit of a difference for my family and my friends, but that’s not going to affect the world. It certainly is not going to make any difference for God’s “Plan of Salvation”. That’s for the important people, not me.
But that’s not true. You are a part of God’s plan for salvation. And so am I. Each one of us is a part of God’s plan for salvation. Each one of us has a role to play.
We play that role in all kinds of ways. We play it in the things we say. We play it in the things we do. We play it in the way we live our lives. We play it as individuals, and we play it as a church.
We talked a couple of weeks ago how inviting someone who’s not going to church anywhere to be a part of our church is the kindest, most loving thing we can do for them. This is why. It’s because you and I are a part of God’s plan for salvation. This church is a part of God’s plan for salvation. Jesus told us to go and make disciples of all the nations. We may not have the ability to get to all the nations, but we sure have the ability to get to the people here. And we can do it. You can do it. I can do it. God wants us to do it. There’s no better time than now, as we approach Christmas, to do it.
And God will help us do it. God will show us the way. If we pray for God’s guidance, if we pray for God to show us the way to reach these unchurched children and unchurched parents, God will do that. God will put them into our path, and God will give us the words to say. All we need to do is trust God.
Isaiah was part of God’s plan for salvation. So was John the Baptist. So are you. And so am I. Let’s pray for God to show what God wants us to do to be part of the plan.