John the Baptist had a building project that he was working on. He knew that he wasn’t the one that would actually do the building but that he was sent to prepare the way for the building. He was in charge of the “site work” on the project. There was one who was coming after him to lay a foundation for the building and to in fact be the “cornerstone” of the building. Others would be sent out later to gather the “living stones” with which this building would be constructed. The building project that John was sent to prepare for was the Kingdom of God, Christ would be the cornerstone and lay the foundation of the building on Peter, the “Rock”, and on the other apostles, and then the apostles would be sent out to gather all nations into this project as living stones to build up the Kingdom of God which is the Church today. It took everyone working together to build up the glorious structure which is the universal Church today.
Today we see how John the Baptist sees his calling to be the one to prepare the way as a fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah. If one is to build a solid structure then there needs to be some preparation work done on the landscape on which the structure is to be built. This usually requires some “site work” which entails bringing in the heavy equipment and preparing a level field on which the structure might be built. Isaiah speaks about this as “making straight the paths of the Lord.” Hills will be leveled and valleys will be filled in to provide a place for the building to take place.
The work of preparation that John sets about doing is not done on some piece of property but rather it takes place in human lives. The Kingdom of God will be built up in the hearts of believers. The “site work” that needs to be done in human hearts is the work of repentance and conversion. Before Jesus the Christ can do his work of laying a foundation for the Kingdom someone needs to prepare the way in human hearts by calling them to repentance and conversion. There needs to be a change in the landscape of our hearts in order to prepare them to receive the gospel message that Jesus will bring and that the apostles will be sent out to preach. The work that is done is a work of justice, faithfulness and peace. Over time the landscape of Israel had become one of highs and lows, of rich and poor, of the privileged and the outcast and John saw the need to justify this uneven situation.
Now when there is a building project going on and the site work begins it will usually draw a crowd of onlookers who want to know what is going on and what is going to be built. There will be legal experts who want to see the permits and know who has commissioned the work. They don’t want to take part in the work they just want to stand on the sidelines and give their opinions of the work being done. There are people who don’t want to see the work continue because they are happy with the way things are and they want to protect their comfortable place in the environment. The Pharisees and the Sadducees were among those who were standing on the sidelines of John’s building project. John speaks to them today in a very challenging way. If they want to be there then they should take part in the work that is being done. They should show some “fruit” in their lives that demonstrates that they are prepared to be a part of the Kingdom that is going to be built. John warns them that every tree that is not bearing fruit, every situation that does not contribute justice to the Kingdom of God, will be cut down and cast aside.
Advent is a time for us to prepare the way for the coming of the Lord in our lives. During Advent we don’t want to be standing on the sidelines of the project and just be onlookers. All of us could use a little site work in our own lives. All of us are called to be builders with Jesus and the apostles of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. All of us are meant to bear the fruit of justice in our lives by clearing the rough areas of sin in our lives and preparing a level and just ground in our hearts where God’s Kingdom can be built. Now is the time to look through the surveyor’s level and see if our hearts are ready to receive the coming of the Lord who will build a new Temple for God to dwell in our hearts.