by David Phelps

“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” -- Mother Teresa

November, 2004

The second presidential debate of 2004, held again this year at Washington University here in St. Louis, took a great deal of planning and preparation. One of the most visible was the area of security. Cars and trucks weren’t allowed anywhere near the debate site. Security for the debate was a task that spanned months for area police. Supervisors from nearly 100 police and fire departments met monthly -- and then weekly -- at the St. Louis County and Municipal Police Academy. Security commanders invested months of high-level planning and countless hours of training.

The University itself had to add 53 miles of fiber-optic cables and 1,300 temporary telephone lines. But the University’s Presidential Debate Steering Committee began preparing for the debate more than a year before it happened. In a real sense, though, the planning began shortly after the last debate at Washington University, in 2000. University officials deliberated whether to host another debate, and what preparations might be necessary.

When John the Baptist appeared, he quoted from the prophet Isaiah:
“A voice of one calling in the desert,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.’” (Isa. 40:3; Matt. 3:3b).
John called on the people to repent, and baptized them in the Jordan river (Matt. 3:11). But when the religious leaders of that time came to where John was baptizing people, he asked them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” (Matt. 3:7b NIV). They had had hundreds of years since Isaiah’s time to prepare, and yet they still weren’t ready for Christ’s coming.

Jesus told the supposedly righteous people of his time, “If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me.” (John 5:46 NIV). They had had not only from the time of Isaiah but from the time of Moses, and still they weren’t ready when he finally came. And when Jesus had ascended, Peter told the crowds, “Indeed, all the prophets from Samuel on, as many as have spoken, have foretold these days.” (Acts 3:24 NIV).

Retailers are already preparing for “the holidays.” Christmas merchandise has been on their shelves since before Labor Day. But their real preparation began months before that, when they began making plans for this Christmas.

It will be here sooner than some of us realize. Our church’s choir has already begun rehearsing for the annual Christmas musical program. Christmas is coming, whether we’re ready for it or not. We can either prepare or not. It will come regardless. The Christmas carol “Joy to the World” contains the line “let every heart prepare him room.” Is there room in your heart? In mine? An event far greater than any Presidential debate is coming, one greater than any president, king, or emperor. Is the stage set? Is your heart ready? I pray that it is so.

You know people who aren’t ready for Christ to come. Their hearts haven’t prepared him room. And when Christ comes, they won’t be ready. You can tell them to be ready. You can tell them, “Prepare the way for the Lord.”

“A voice of one calling:
‘In the desert prepare
the way for the LORD;
make straight in the wilderness
a highway for our God. . . .
. . . And the glory of the LORD will be revealed,
and all mankind together will see it.
For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.’” (Isa. 40:3 & 5 NIV.)

Copyright © 2004 by David Phelps