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Prepare the Way

“'Make ready the way of the Lord,

make His paths straight!’”

Matthew 3:3

At 37 weeks the hair of most fetuses is full at this point with locks up to an inch or two. This being said, some babies are born without any hair at all. Baby Chris recognizes familiar voices and turns toward them in the womb. The umbilical cord is now passing his mother’s antibodies to him, to protect him from diseases and germs he will be exposed to after birth. This week or next, his mother will feel the baby “drop,” helping her to breathe easier with more room for her lungs to expand.

Although some mothers may make appointments for an induced labor or Cesarean sections, most mothers don’t know the day or the hour when labor will begin. When it comes, labor proceeds in “stages”: pre-labor, then the first, second and third stages. Pre-labor is a latent phase where the mother’s body makes its final preparations for active labor. Throughout pregnancy, the cervix is closed to protect against infection. During pre-labor, the cervix will soften (sometimes called, “ripening”) preparing it to open when contractions begin. Pre-labor changes may take hours, days or even weeks, sometimes without notice, and sometimes with occasional contractions. In the meantime, expectant mothers can only wait as their bodies prepare for birth.

The Old Testament has a series of descriptions of the preparation necessary for God’s people to be ready for deliverance, from Abraham and Sarah’s long wait for their promised child (Genesis 15-21); Jacob’s years of servitude as he waited for Rachel (Genesis 29:18-30); Joseph’s years of captivity in Egypt before rising to a position to deliver his family from a famine (Genesis 42-45); the Hebrew nation’s desert wanderings before their deliverance into the Promised Land (Joshua 4:19); Ezra and Nehemiah’s careful plans before the rebuilding of Jerusalem; Esther’s preparation in the king’s harem before her role in delivering the Jews from an extermination plot, and more.

Between the Testaments was the 400-year silence of God as God’s people awaited a word from the Lord, until at last, the voice of John the Baptist could be heard calling Israel to repentance and baptism in preparation for the coming of the Messiah. Like the antibodies that prepare the unborn infant’s immune system for life in the petri dish of the world outside the womb, John urged sinful Israel to receive the baptism of repentance, for the kingdom of Heaven was about to arrive (Matthew 3:3).

Since the Resurrection and Ascension of Christ, God’s people continue to wait for the return of Jesus for his Church, the end of the effects of the curse and the restoration of the world. But not just yet. Like an impending birth, it could be another minute, another day, another week or more – no one knows the day or the hour (Matthew 24:26) - and in the meantime, we experience the increasing chaos and distress of the world, which Jesus compared to the “beginning of birth pangs” (Matthew 24:8). This “pre-labor” will be followed by the inescapable “labor pain” that is the judgment that accompanies the Parousia (I Thessalonians 5:3).

As we enter into the new church year that begins with Advent, the Christian world waits and prepares for the return of Christ and our anticipated redemption (Rev. 19:7) by remembering His first coming and celebrating His birth (Luke 2:1-20). For those who love His appearing (2 Timothy 4:8) - like a much-loved and long-awaited child - He will be received with joy.

"Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord [Adonai], whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple;

and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming," says the Lord [YHWH] of hosts."

Malachi 3:1

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