A few years ago, a few days after Christmas, after the longest possible Advent season we could have, after a long day here, an even longer flight, and a long drive from the airport, I arrived at my cousin’s house to begin my vacation. I walked in, bags in hand, and saw the most beautiful thing on the counter. They had coffee. They had coffee, ready to brew, and plenty more for the length of my time there. It was beautiful to a weary traveler. My cousin’s wife smiled and said, “Well, we knew that you would be coming, and we know what you need.” They were ready to welcome me. They were prepared.
John the Baptist had been prepared too. We normally think about him as the one preparing the way, and he does. In his mother’s womb, he kicked with joy at the greeting of Mary. He’s the one who preaches repentance and baptizes people in the Jordan River. He’s the one who points to Jesus and says, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” We think about John the Baptist as someone who prepared the way. But John the Baptist prepared the way because God, by his grace, had been preparing the way for John the Baptist. God’s grace had been at work for the life of John the Baptist for a long, long time.
Even from the days of Isaiah, the prophet who told us about the Messiah, and the lion and the lamb. Isaiah tells us about the suffering servant and the banquet on the side of the mountain, which looks like the great parish picnic of all creation. Isaiah tells the people of Israel that they are going to be something greater than a servant, greater than a prophet. The people are going to be a light to the nations. They are going to show the glory of God, and Isaiah prepares them for it. But Isaiah prepares the people of Israel to be a light to the nations, and he prepared the nations for the preaching of John the Baptist because God, through his grace, had been preparing for the life of Isaiah for a long, long time.
From the calling of Abraham, and even from the foundation of the world, God, through his grace, had been preparing for the life of Isaiah. He had been preparing, through his grace, for the life of John the Baptist. The grace of God goes before. The grace of God goes ahead. The grace of God imbues the future even as the mighty acts of God transform the past and the present. The grace of God that prepared for the life of Isaiah and the preaching of John the Baptist has been preparing the way for you and for me for a long, long time. The grace of God preceded our first step. The grace of God preceded our first breath. The grace of God preceded that moment when our great-great grandparents met. The grace of God goes before. The grace of God goes ahead. The grace of God imbues the future.
God is gracing our tomorrow even as we respond today. John the Baptist responded to the grace of God and he was able to recognize Jesus. He could see the Savior with the eyes of faith. Isaiah responded to the grace of God and proclaimed the promise of salvation. Paul responded to the grace of God and announced grace and peace to the Church at Corinth and today to the Church in Monroe. God’s grace goes ahead of Isaiah and ahead of John the Baptist, and ahead of Paul. The grace of God goes ahead of you and of me. God’s grace has prepared us. God’s grace is sustaining us. God’s grace is awaiting us. The future is imbued with the grace of God.
Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we have confidence and we have reason to celebrate. When our children, young people, and teachers go into their schools this week, the grace of God is already there. God knows they will be coming and he knows what they need. When we are getting ready for work this week, the grace of God is already there. God knows we will be coming and he knows what we need. When we come to the last moments of this day and bring our prayers before the Lord, the grace of God is already there. God knows we will be coming and he knows what we need.
Now we enter into the feast of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. God’s grace is here and he gives us what we need. Amen.