This is the Good News about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God. It began just as the prophet Isaiah had written:
“Look, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
and he will prepare your way.
He is a voice shouting in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord’s coming!
Clear the road for him!’”
This messenger was John the Baptist. He was in the wilderness and preached that people should be baptized to show that they had repented of their sins and turned to God to be forgiven. All of Judea, including all the people of Jerusalem, went out to see and hear John. And when they confessed their sins, he baptized them in the Jordan River. His clothes were woven from coarse camel hair, and he wore a leather belt around his waist. For food he ate locusts and wild honey. (Mark 1:1–6 NLT)
Each year, many people across the world resolve to make some kind of positive change in their life as a way to start off the new year on the right foot. These New Year’s resolutions often entail starting new habits or getting rid of bad habits. Regularly among the top resolutions each year are the healthy lifestyle trifecta: eat better, exercise more, and lose weight. Like most healthy habits, all three are difficult goals to tackle, which is why so many of these resolutions fall flat by February. Eating better and exercising more both take hard work and dedication, and losing weight involves both of them to some degree, so even just thinking about it can be daunting.
Taking care of our bodies is hard, but so is not taking care of them, just in a different way. Eating less sugar can be a challenge, but the alternative might be diabetes later in life. Opting out of exercising on a regular basis could result in lower mobility as we get older. Every choice has consequences, both immediate and in the future. So often – and not just in terms of physical health – when we choose the less difficult path in the immediate, we are simply transmuting one difficulty into another. We have outsourced our present difficulties onto our future selves.
John the Baptist was chosen, even before his birth, to serve as the “voice shouting in the wilderness” to prepare the way for the Messiah. It was not an easy life. He subsisted on locusts and wild honey, wore coarse clothing, and lived far outside of town. He could have rejected the lifestyle of a prophet and had a more comfortable life, but the cost would have been high. The highest cost would have been not being part of Jesus’s ministry. The story of John’s birth would still have been memorable, possibly even enough to still be included Luke’s Gospel account, but if he had chosen the easy way, he would not have had the same kind of eternal impact.
Thank God, John chose the hard way – his difficult manger – so he might serve as the one who prepared the way for Jesus. Given the choice, could you say the same? Would you be willing to sacrifice your personal comfort in the present in service to God?