Luke 1:11-17 - Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth. Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous–to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
God was preparing His people Israel, first through the Law and the Prophets that had been given centuries before. Everything was lining up for the coming of the Messiah. Now, God would send another prophet, the son of Zechariah the High Priest and his wife, Elizabeth. He would be known as John the Baptist because he would baptize people for the repentance of sin. His mission was to go before the Lord in the spirit and power of Elijah to turn people back to God. Jesus said that there was no one born of woman greater than John the Baptist because his specific ministry was to break up the hard ground of the hearts of the Hebrew people and prepare the way for their coming King.
John came at just the right time. Jesus was born at just the right time - the time set by the Father for the sending of His Son for the redemption of the world. "But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons" (Galatians 4:4, 5). John came declaring the Law to reveal sin in people's hearts so they would look for salvation and help. But, he also came declaring God's Justice and His ultimate intent, which was to set right all that had gone wrong. God would make things right through the coming of Jesus. We see the clearest picture of John's ministry in Luke 3:1-20. A portion of that says about what John would do,
As is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet:
“A voice of one calling in the desert,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.
Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill made low.
The crooked roads shall become straight,
the rough ways smooth.
And all mankind will see God's salvation.’ ” (Luke 3:4-6 NIV84)
John the Baptist was calling people out. He told people to repent. To stop stealing and cheating people and being greedy and stingy and corrupt. He called for the valleys to be filled in and the mountains brought down and for crooked roads to be straightened out - in other words, he was calling for justice and peace and wholeness - Shalom - for everyone under God's reign and rule. John was calling for the Kingdom and Jesus would be the one to bring it to fruition.
The Coming of Christ turned the world upside-down. But, before that happened, God sent John to warn the people and get them ready. Advent is a time of year where we can get our hearts ready, where we can realign our priorities, take inventory, make things right, repent, and look to Christ. It is more than just the prep time for Christmas and the time when you have all of the Christmas parties and events with people that you aren't related to, saving the family time for the days immediately around Christmas. Advent can be a time to sit under the ministry of John the Baptist and prepare the way for the Lord, to let God's Law and Justice work on your heart so that you cry out to Christ as Savior. It can be a time when we are reminded that things are not yet as they should be, but Jesus is making all things new.
It is a time to wait and expect and hope.
"Lord, come make my paths straight so I can walk on level ground."