The last we heard of Jesus he was 12. Soon he’s going to enter again and it will be about 20 years later. We have no record of what we often consider today to be the most formative years of a person life. A lot of important years go by, and Luke, subtly recognizes this by almost starting the story over. Chapter 3 feels like the beginning of a story. And, in many ways it is. Once again, think of it playing like a movie. The first 2 chapters are almost those set up scenes, and when they are done, you can almost see the slow fade out and then back in to a new time. The set up is vital, but if you’re sitting in a movie theater watching, this is that moment when you shift in your seat a little bit to settle in, because now you feel like this story is going to take off. Luke is a good writer, so here in chapter three he begins “In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius…”, which is how you would expect a story to begin. And, as already stated, it kind of is: It is here when the ministry part of Jesus’ life will begin.
It is here that all that business about Zachariah, Elizabeth, and their son John comes back to us. This is the point when those two boys, John and Jesus, will finally intersect. Every Gospel says something about John. He’s one of the few (if only) characters who is not one of the 12 disciples who is mentioned and given significant space in every Gospel. And his whole purpose is to do exactly what the text says he is there to do, which is to call us to “prepare the way”. Often times I think of John being the one who prepares the way himself, but if you look at his words, he calls each of us to prepare the way for ourselves. You see, Jesus is about to show up, and John wants us to make way for him. No one can do that for us. We are the only ones who can make room for Jesus in our lives.
Are we willing to? What do we need to do to make it as easy as possible for God to work in our lives? Just as God stepped into the world as Jesus to work in the world, so too does God want to step into our lives and work in them. The question is, are we preparing a way for God to do that? Are we taking the time and giving the space in our lives for God to work? Are we slowing our spirits down enough to notice God? Are we reading, reflecting on, and wondering about the story of God as recorded in the Scriptures? Are we opening up the gates of our hearts for God to come in through prayer, contemplation and stillness? Are we making room for God to come into us by engaging in God-centered, Jesus-shaped and Spirit-led community? Or have we so cluttered our lives with busy-ness, that it’s going to take a near crisis for God to break in?
I think I all too often fall into the latter. I think most Americans do. What do you need to do to “prepare the way”?