As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, “Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way, the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,’” John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
Mark 1:2-4 ESV
If you've been to a concert, you know, there is always a warm-up band before the main event. Usually, this is either new talent trying to get a break or older artists trying to revitalize their careers. About 30 years ago, Janice and I went to see the popular country duo Brooks & Dunn; their warm-up band was called Ranch with an unknown Australian singer called Keith Urban. Any that follow country music will recognize the name. Since then, Keith continued with a solo career having numerous hits and winning awards.
John the Baptist was Christ's warm-up band. In the Christmas story, his role often gets lost. We read of his mother's conceiving, but nothing of his birth or childhood. The next we hear, he is a grown man living in the wilderness wearing rough, uncomfortable clothing and eating bugs. Yet, he plays an essential part in God's story of salvation. He fulfills the prophecy in the Old Testament, and in his ministry, brings awareness to the imminent arrival of the coming Messiah. While he could not fill with the Holy Spirit, he could preach the necessity for repentance and the symbolic cleansing of sin through the rite of baptism. Later, of course, he would baptize Christ, not because of any sin, but to identify with humanity. After Jesus' baptism and the manifestation of God, John would announce to the world that Jesus was indeed the long-awaited Emmanuel.
Fast forward to today. We know Christ is coming again. It has been prophesized, and as Christians, we believe this to be true. Our job as Christ-followers is to be modern-day John the Baptist -- minus the camel hair and locusts. We are to be the warm-up band for the coming main event of all times. We look forward to the joy of that day when sickness will disappear, troubles will be gone, and peace and justice will rule in God’s reign. The things we only dream of today will happen. Isn’t that a message of joy that deserves sharing? Shouldn’t we rejoice in being selected as His warm-up band and share our enthusiasm with others?
Almighty God, we give thanks for John the Baptist and his role in fulfilling the announcement of who was to come; your Son Jesus. Please help us as we share the joy of your second-coming with others. Let us be the messengers that make way the straight path for your arrival. Bless us this day, so our words and actions may be pleasing to you. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.