If you plan to go to Bethlehem this year to see the child in the manger, you need to first make a stop in the wilderness of Judea. There, standing knee deep in the swirling, muddy water, you’ll find a man with rough clothes and an even rougher message. It’s John the Baptist calling the people to repent, to turn away from their sin and make a new start.  “Prepare the way of the Lord” he shouts and you and I better listen.

All four of the gospels include John in their account of Jesus. He sets the stage for what Jesus brings to the world. And although Rev. Shannon and I won’t be spending too much time on John this Advent season, he still stands in the background and won’t be ignored.

What I’ve come to see as so important about John the Baptist is that he makes it clear that Christ cannot be squeezed into an otherwise full life. If we are going to follow Jesus, something in our hearts and spirits will have to change. We can’t just squeeze in a little discipleship around the edges. We need to make some room. We’ve got to clear out the clutter and even some things we hold dear. Some of our current priorities and plans will need to be released and cleared away. That’s not an easy message to hear, especially when we are looking for “comfort and joy”, but the real joy that God brings starts this way.

Here’s hoping you find the blessing and joy that God has to offer this Advent.

Rev. Steve Larsen