The Message, December 4, 2022: "Are You Ready?" Matthew 3:1-12

The Message, December 4, 2022: "Are You Ready?" Matthew 3:1-12

Author: Rev. Scott W. Cousineau
December 06, 2022


“Are You Ready?”
A Message by Rev. Scott W. Cousineau
Matthew 3:1-12

            We were supposed to have had a parade through the heart of Saco last night … the Parade of Lights was to be the culmination of the Festival of Lights. They cancelled due to the weather forecast, however, all of the necessary preparations had already been made.

            The signs went up preparing motorists of the street closures. They posted the maps and information on Facebook and the Saco Main Street website.
            Signs were posted announcing that there would be no parking in anticipation of the parade.
            Groups registered for their spots in the parade and provided proof of insurance.

            Plans had been made. Decorations for floats had been purchased, walkers had their costumes ready to go. But in the end, the lights were not lit, the people did not line the streets in anticipation, and the parade did not step off! What a disappointment for the people. There was supposed to be so much joy! The hearts and souls of the people were supposed to reach toward the heavens.

            What a spectacle it would have been! What a celebration! Elves and angels walking side-by-side with the Grinch and other holiday favorites. I suspect that a certain red-suited guest was also supposed to make an appearance.

            Mother Nature spoiled that party.

            Now … let me ask you this. How many people do you think would come out for the NEW annual parade … the Festival of Jesus?! The Jesus Parade?!!

            Do you think that people would line the streets?

            Or would people stay home and lock their doors because those crazy Christians were out there trying to ruin Christmas?

John the Baptist was preparing the people for a very different sort of parade. It was not the Parade of Lights, but it was the coming of THE Light! And the people were very excited! They were excited because they had experienced so much disappointment.

            They were not disappointed because a little parade got cancelled. They were disappointed because the people had been waiting for generations, ever since the prophet Isaiah offered his prophecy of promise. When John came onto the scene, there had been no additional word from the prophets. The people had waited four hundred years.

            And then John appeared as a voice in the wilderness. His appearance brought to mind the prophet Elijah. John came from God and the people finally heard the Voice of God again!! Their wait was finally over!!

            One is coming! One from the stump of Jesse is coming! One from the House of David is coming! Prepare the Way!

            John lifted up the ancient and familiar words from Isaiah. The people who had lived in darkness, the people who had lived under oppressive regimes, the people that had endured conquest and exile were finally going to receive their king … their Lord … their God. Prepare the way!

            Here in New England, we know about bent and bumpy roads. The people of ancient Palestine would have traveled in bliss upon our pothole riddled roads! The land was rough, and rocky. Travel was exceedingly dangerous. If the king was going to travel through an area, heralds would be sent forth to prepare the way. Move the rocks and stones out of the path. Clear the path of any vagabonds and thieves. Prepare the way so that the king may safely travel through the land.

            Of course, we know that John was speaking metaphorically. “Make the rough places plain. Make the rocky place smooth. Remove the branches and other detritus that had collected along the way. Get ready.”

            John was not speaking of the roads and footpaths through the countryside. He was speaking about the hearts and souls of the people. Prepare the path for God but prepare in a very different way. Repent.

            People, get ready! If you want to be received into the Sacred Kin-dom … get ready. If you want to be in a deeper relationship with God … get ready.

            Repent. Make the rough places smooth.

            The prophets had proclaimed that God would return ONLY when the people were properly prepared. God would return when they had turned toward God with ALL their hearts. “Love God with ALL your heart, and ALL your strength, and ALL your soul.” Not some. Not a certain percentage. ALL.

            Prepare the way. Repent.
            Turn toward the holy
            Turn toward the sacred.
            Turn toward God.

            John was proclaiming a passionate message to the people. He was the voice in the wilderness preparing the people so that they might prepare the way. John was not just saying and proclaiming those things that the people should not do; he was pointing them … and us … toward those things that we ought to be doing.

            Repent. Take the higher path. Do the better thing.

            Matthew’s Gospel singles out the Pharisees and the Sadducees. They were the ones who were supposed to be righteous, were supposed to be faithful. And their strict adherence to the Law made them susceptible to the sins of pride and arrogance. The pride of the Pharisees and Sadducees was the problem. They prided themselves on their observance of the Law, and it was their pride that got in the way of God’s return.

            John told them in no uncertain terms that they too were in need of repentance. “Do not think that you are special because you are Sons of Abraham. Do not think that your lineage or heritage has earned you a special place or offered you some exemption. You do not get a free pass because of what papa or grandpa did. You do not get to push to the front of the line. You must repent as well. You must turn your whole heart toward God too!”

            They believed that because Abraham had been so faithful to God, and was so beloved by God, that his merits had been bestowed upon them … his descendants.

            Well … my great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandfather was Deacon Samuel Chapin. He came over on one of the later voyages of the Mayflower and founded Springfield, Massachusetts. Does that entitle me to any special dispensation if I get pulled over for speeding in Springfield? (Not that I would ever get pulled over for speeding. I was just speaking hypothetically.)

            John’s message is clear. The One proclaimed by the prophets is coming and we must prepare the way. We do not get any special dispensation because our parents or grandparents were very active in the church way back when, because THEY were faithful servants. We too must make the rough places plain. We too must repent.

            I have noted before, but it bears repeating, “repent” does not mean to “turn away from.” Rather, it means to “turn toward.” Repent. Turn TOWARD.

            Turn toward righteousness.
            Turn toward generosity.
            Turn toward kindness.
            Turn toward compassion.
            Turn toward service.
            Turn toward love.
            Turn toward God.

            If we desire to be received into the sacred kin-dom, we must get ready.
One cannot simply proclaim to love God. One cannot simply proclaim Jesus as our savior. We have to actually LIVE as if we do. We have to LOVE as if we do.

            Jesus is coming! Are we ready?


Congregational Church