“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.” Matthew11:10
This single phase is so powerful — first found in the Old Testament book of Malachi 3:1 and 4:5 referring to the sending of God’s messenger, Elijah, and here in the New Testament referring to John the Baptist. There is something about this phrase that carries a sense of power, potential, and anticipation. There is energy and movement, but also mystery and an intriguing lack of information. We are not at face value told who the sender is, who the messenger is, where it is we are heading, and what way it is that is being prepared for us or why! It takes a lot of faith to get excited about the message given in this sentence.
Some of my earliest memories as a child were the feelings of excitement and anticipation when we would prepare for a family vacation. In those days, we would put the seat down in the back of the Chevy Nova II station wagon and put a mattress on top for the four boys to sleep on while we drove at night through the hot Mojave Desert. We might be heading up into the Sierras or on a trek across country. We packed the trailer for days. We collected games for the road. We filled an ice chest with snacks and sandwich stuff. Getting ready was great. Every item included and every task completed meant we were one step closer to the goal: vacation! As the youngest, I don’t recall being a part of deciding where we were going, but my Dad always gave me a “list” of things to do to help us all get there.
I think when I started my first appointment about 37 years ago, I had a sense that in my ministry career I would “get there.” The church would “arrive” at some mountain top of great achievement. I can’t say that such an expectation has been met. But, as I read this Advent text again, I get a different sense of things. I begin to feel this energy and excitement again that what we are about is not achieving what we think we are capable of. It is about preparing for what God is capable of. If I look at this world and all its woes, and gauge my hope on what I have been able to do to mitigate the misery so many still face, I would despair. One gift of age is time that brings perspective. From my current life stage’s vantage point, I don’t just look at the potential I have for making change. I get to see the amazing amount of people in every church, and in every region throughout the world, who are feeling the call to help “prepare the way” for God’s future among us. I meet young people who have been transformed by faith, who are transforming their families and their friends. I see congregations that have a seemingly limitless amount of energy for reaching out to the needs of their members and their communities. Instead of arrivals, I keep seeing “preparations” and people eager and excited about the journey.
This Advent, that is my joy. We are getting ready for something great that God is going to do! What a trip!
Prayer: Lord, we may not be there yet, but keep me on the way toward your Kingdom.
Rev. John Farley
South District Superintendent
Dean of Cabinet