Journey to the Manger: John the Baptist

Me and the kids after our Get Ready relay race!

Me and the kids after our Get Ready relay race!

We dipped our toes in the water today meeting John the Baptist on our Journey to the Manger.

John is the miracle baby of Zechariah and Elizabeth, a child of prophecy and promise. The Holy Spirit was upon him before he was born, shaping him to become the one who would prepare the world for the Messiah. His calling was evident in his first encounter with Jesus, when he started dancing in Elizabeth’s womb as Mary, pregnant with the Son of God, greeted her cousin.

John the Baptist

John the Baptist

Jesus would later call his cousin John the greatest man ever born. John became a powerful preacher, crying out for the people to repent and turn back to God. When he went out into the wilderness, the crowds followed him. Under conviction, many confessed their sins and were baptized. John said, “I am a voice of one crying out in the wilderness: Make straight the way of the Lord.” (John 1:23) He wanted everyone to be ready for the coming of Christ!

As Jesus began His ministry and encountered John once again, John proclaimed, “Here is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the One I told you about.” (John 1:29-30) John pointed people to Jesus.

Today, we competed in a “Get Ready” relay race. One-by-one, we tried to get dressed with a pile of mismatched clothes as fast as we could, then awkwardly run around the living room three times, take them off and finally high-five the next person for them to begin. We could barely make it around the room we were laughing so hard! This game was hard (hilarious) work!

Jackson and Lauren laughed so hard when they saw how silly they looked during our relay!

Jackson and Lauren laughed so hard when they saw how silly they looked during our relay!

This Christmas, we ought to listen to John the Baptist. We need to set aside our agendas and attitudes, and turn our lives over to Christ. God longs to wash our hearts clean, renew our purpose and surround us with peace. As we celebrate the season, we then can anticipate Jesus’s presence and proclaim His coming!

Let’s get ready for Jesus!

Repentance

Scripture crumbs from Leviticus 16:21-22

Aaron will lay both his hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the Israelites’ wrongdoings and rebellious acts—all their sins. He is to put them on the goat’s head and send it away into the wilderness by the man appointed for the task. The goat will carry on it all their wrongdoings into a desolate land, and he will release it there.

In this corporate act of worship once a year, the High Priest makes atonement in the Most Holy Place, where the presence of God dwells above the mercy seat. In addition to the sacrifices made, on the Day of Atonement the High Priest confesses all of the people’s sins while laying his hands on a live goat. This symbolizes the transference of those sins. The goat is then released into the wilderness, carrying the people’s sins away.

In the same manner, our sins were placed upon Jesus and He bore that burden on the cross. Scripture says that when we repent, God separates our sin from us as far as the east is from the west. Our sin is banished into the wilderness, never to return. What freedom is ours for the taking if we would just humble ourselves and stretch our hands and hearts toward Jesus!

Atonement and peace can only be found through repentance.

R – recognize your sin.
Sometimes we know we are in the wrong and other times it has to be brought to our attention. Either way, we must face our sin and recognize it as such.

E – examine your life and heart.
Take an honest look at where you are. Ask God for discernment and help to see what we need to give over to Him.

P – pray and confess.
Talk with God and confess your sin. Don’t try to cover it up or be generic. Get real with God. Ask for His forgiveness.

E – embrace God’s forgiveness.
Accept God’s gift. Bask in the sweetness of His forgiveness and grace. Believe that God is bigger than your sin and take Him at His Word that you are forgiven.

N – never return to the sin.
Repentance is turning away from your sin and to Jesus. A line in the sand has been drawn – you’ve been given a fresh start. Just as the Israelites wouldn’t have formed a search party to find the goat sent into the wilderness on the Day of Atonement, we must not pine after or pursue sin from which we have been cleansed.

T – trust and follow God.
Now that you have been given freedom, walk in it. Passionately follow after the One who set you free.

Therefore repent and turn back, so that your sins may be wiped out, that seasons of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord

– Acts 3:19

Jesus, thank you for bearing my sins. I am so grateful that you so generously forgive me, and separate me from that sin. Please help me to live fully in the freedom you have given me, and never take for granted your presence and care.