Background: God's timing is impeccable. He handpicked the family that would give John the training and nurturing needed for a lifetime of service. The baby Elizabeth carried was not to grow up and become a man of leisure. He wasn't even going to spend his life in normal hard work with the comforts of a home and family. No, his life was given a unique purpose before he was even born. Young John was trained to be a man of service, to love and follow the Lord above everything. He would not have the chance to marry or have a family of his own. He would anger important people and ultimately die for his bold words and actions. His purpose was seemingly simple but dangerously radical. He was, "To make ready for the Lord a people prepared."
My thoughts: How did John grow up to be a loud spokesman for God? What made him into a bold man who would relentlessly speak God's message of repentance to King Herod and anyone else who would listen?
He was prepared for this purpose by God Himself. God gave John parents who knew how to sacrifice and serve. Zechariah and Elizabeth knew how to put God's plans above their own desires. They spent years practicing faithful service without apparent rewards. Zechariah and Elizabeth were the perfect parents for John.
John had something else too. It is a Someone that I have too -- Jesus Christ. John would grow up to prepare the way for this Jesus and say,
“I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” (Luke 3:16-17)And later,
“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ (John 1:29-30)
This last exclamation is a clear acknowledgment of the divinity of Jesus Christ. John says of Jesus, "He was before me." He says this even though John was physically several months older than Jesus. He even started his public ministry earlier! Yet John understood the supreme importance of Jesus Christ and put his faith in him long before Jesus had a following or performed any miracles. John was full of the Holy Spirit from before his birth, and he recognized the Savior. Recognition wasn't enough, however. John would die for his convictions.
In this Advent season we look back and remember the first coming of Christ and look forward to His second coming. Like John, we too are prepared for a purpose. Just as John prepared the way for Jesus' ministry here on earth, we all must be preparing the way for His second coming. He is coming soon! That is something to rejoice about! ...but more on that later.