This year, preparing for Christmas feels a lot more like preparing for Urbana. This advent season, typically a time of preparing for the coming of the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords as a baby in Bethlehem, has been infused with a sense of urgency to prepare for the movement of God at Urbana 15.
I reread the Christmas story in the Gospel of Luke today, starting from the very beginning with Zechariah and Elizabeth and reading through the baptism of Jesus. I never really noticed before, but the story of the birth of Jesus is bookended by the story of John the Baptist, the son of Zechariah and Elizabeth. Zechariah prophesies over his son before Jesus is born, “You will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins.” And again, when John comes out of the wilderness preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, right before he baptizes Jesus and Jesus begins his ministry on earth, Luke reminds us that John is the fulfillment of what Isaiah the prophet had written. He is the “voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord.’”
In these final days leading up to Urbana, I am aware of the need to prepare a way for the Lord to work in me at Urbana. I have preparation to be done at many levels, but in all of them, my theme has become the chorus from the song “Days of Elijah” as it follows the line, “Still we are the voice in the desert crying / Prepare ye the way of the Lord!” (The part that is really stuck in my head comes at about 2 minutes into this video of my favorite rendition).
“Behold He comes, riding on the clouds
Shining like the sun at the trumpet's call
So, lift your voice, it's the year of Jubilee
Out of Zion’s hill, salvation comes”
It is time to prepare the way of the Lord at Urbana because “Behold, He comes.” And He comes not just as the humble, human baby in the manger but He is coming as the King of Kings, as the Lord of Lords. Lift your voice because salvation comes.
Three Ways I am Preparing the Way for the Lord
It’s time to pack and prepare. To all my friends in Texas, let me assure you that Midwestern winter is no joke. You will need a coat, and socks, and scarves and mittens. Shorts and flip flops will not cut it. Pretend you are going to Alaska and you’ll probably pack just about right because it will likely be colder here than you have ever experienced in your lifetime in Texas.
For me, unfinished items on a to-do list are distractions. To be fully present in what God has for me at Urbana, I’m getting rid of those nagging items that I put off during finals week, cleaning my room, journaling out unfinished thoughts, and emptying my inbox. I’m putting things to rest so that my mind is ready to focus, ready to take in new ideas and new challenges at Urbana. If I can’t get to it before I leave, it’s going on a post-Urbana list so I am free from thinking about it during my time in St. Louis.
I’ve been hearing about the Matthew Challenge for the last few months, and in these last few days, I am preparing myself to hear God speak through the scriptures at Urbana by participating. I have three hours of driving to see family this week, which is just enough time to listen to an audio version of the Gospel of Matthew. I want to let the stories about Jesus that we’ll be studying together begin to soak into my mind and my soul.
The time has come, my friends. Prepare the way of the Lord, for behold, He comes!