As we continue through the season of Advent, we focus today on the Gospel and read a devotion from LifeLight: Luke, Part 1—Leaders Guide.
Read the propers for today in Lutheran Service Builder.
Many have speculated about the differences between John’s Baptism and that of Jesus. The Pharisees of this time practiced many “baptisms” or ceremonial washings. These had only symbolic significance. But since John’s Baptism gave the forgiveness of sins, it was a means of grace. Our Baptism, Christian Baptism, seals God’s forgiveness in Christ to us. It connects us with our Lord in His death and resurrection. In these, we receive forgiveness and eternal life. Nevertheless, an important difference remains: John’s Baptism pointed forward to the Messiah, while Christian Baptism points back to the Messiah who has accomplished our salvation.
Luke reassures Theophilus of John’s legitimacy as he continues (vv. 4–6) to link John’s ministry with Old Testament prophesies of the Messiah and His forerunner. The Baptizer’s ministry is described in an almost exact quotation of Isaiah 40:3–5. John’s cries haunt the barren wilderness. An echo is often the only response.
John’s words “Prepare the way” announced the coming of someone of high status. From ancient times, subjects made physical preparations for visitors of importance. Roadways, crooked and inconvenient for years, suddenly were no longer adequate. They had to be straightened and made more passable. In England still today, people make extensive preparations for a visit by the queen. Even if the visit will last a very short time, citizens repaint fences and trellises, plant flowers timed to be in bloom for the visit, and sometimes even remodel buildings to accommodate the monarch.
The preparations of which Isaiah and John speak, however, have little to do with outward appearances. Rather, they involve individual hearts and lives. Every generation since Abraham had longed to see this day, had longed for the appearance of the Messiah whom the Lord had promised to send. As the years had gone by, their expectations had changed. At the time of John, most in Israel expected a military deliverer, one who would reestablish the kingdom of David and the wealth of Solomon.
But John calls the people to prepare for a different kind of King, a different kind of preparation. The sin that hid itself deep inside each heart had to be rooted out. The doubt that hid deep in the dark pockets of the heart, the peaks of pride and self-sufficiency—these all had to be leveled out. That which was rough had to be made smooth.
Finally, Israel would shine forth into a dark world. She would proclaim the message the Lord had created her to proclaim. And all the preparations would prove more than worth the effort they would take.
Devotional reading is from LifeLight: Luke, Part 1—Leaders Guide, page 20 © 1995, 2008 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.
Video is of “Creator of the Stars of Night” © 2017 Concordia Publishing House.