And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowldege of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins. Luke 1: 76-77 NRSV
For a moment, it sounds like John is being set up to be the promised Messiah. There are many echoes of Abram and Sara in this story - older, barren but faithful couple. Zechariah is from the priestly clan (from what other clan would the Messiah be from?). And Zechariah has clearly had a vision in the Holy of Holies; he is now mute because of his unbelief.
But the gospel writer makes it very clear that John is to prepare the way for the true Messiah. Sounds like there was some confusion among some Jews over whether John or Jesus as the Messiah. Perhaps after Jesus was hung on a tree to die (an obvious curse for the Hebrew people) many were looking for other options. Certainly there seemed to be some competition and confusion between the followers of John and Jesus (see Luke 7:18 ff.) before Jesus was executed.
In this story of John's birth, it is very clear that John's prophetic role is that of the one who prepares the way of the Lord rather than the Lord himself.
And that is our role as well. We may think we are preparing our homes for Christmas parties and Santa Claus, but it is our time spent in preparing ourselves and our neighbors spiritually for Jesus that is the important part of this time of year. May we not be confused during the business of the season.
God, prepare our hearts for You. Then may we help others prepare for You as well. In Jesus' Holy Name. Amen.
Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims