When I was pregnant with my first child, I spent a lot of time preparing for his arrival. My husband and I attended a 12 week birth preparation class. We read books like Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child and Signing Smart for Babies and Children. We rented the video Happiest Baby on the Block and memorized the 5 S’s. We spent a great deal of time selecting the right furniture and then decorating and setting up the nursery. I diligently washed and folded all of the tiny little onesies and sweet little outfits and placed them carefully in little baskets and drawers. I had my hospital bag packed and the car seat buckled in the car a month ahead of time. When our little boy finally arrived, we were ready.
With our second, things were a little different. I did set up the baby’s area and put her clothes in baskets and I did pack my hospital bag, but with only two weeks to go instead of four. The carseat was attached in the seat about 5 minutes before we left for the hospital. I cut it a little closer with my third, getting my preparations done about a week ahead of time.
And then with number four, I pulled out the box of baby boy clothes the weekend before he was due and I packed my hospital bag the day before he arrived. My husband had to go back home for the carseat and the evening of the day we brought him home, my husband went to the store to get a bassinet, since our other one had broken and we didn’t check it or set it up until we came home from the hospital.
How different my preparations were with my first and subsequent children. It is a reflection, I suppose, of the calmness that comes with experience and the business that comes with having children underfoot.
Lately, I have been studying Mark. In the very first few verses of the book, I see the care that God takes to prepare the world for the arrival of His First-Born Son.
” The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in Isaiah the prophet,
“Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
who will prepare your way,
the voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,’”
God had been preparing for hundreds of years for the arrival of His Son. He told Adam and Eve that He would come. He promised Abraham that He would come from one of his descendents. He prescribed feast days, most significantly the Passover, to give a picture of what His Son would do when He came. He told prophets details of His birth place and His life’s work. He prepared a messenger ahead of time to soften and prepare the hearts of the people so that they would be ready for the Messiah and His message.
“John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey. 7 And he preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” Mark 1: 4-8
This messenger, John the Baptist, preached a message of repentance so that the people would see their need for a Savior. He was a godly example to the people as did not seek after possessions and the finer things of life, but lived for the purpose to which God had called him. Though he enjoyed great success in his ministry he glorified the Lord and pointed to the Messiah as one greater than himself.
As God through John the Baptist prepared His people’s hearts for His Son, I want to take care to prepare my children’s hearts to follow Jesus throughout their lives. So I can do the things that John the Baptist did for the people of Israel:
1. Show them their Need: Daily Bible lessons and stories can reveal God’s character and standards, His mercy, justice, and compassion. Whenever shepherding or discipline opportunities arise, I can use them to show my children their need for Christ.
2. Be an Example: I can only do this through Christ’s strength, but because of His grace, even my failures can be opportunities to point them to Christ and show them how to live. When I do wrong and apologize, they learn to repent. When I start my morning with prayer and in the Scriptures, they learn how to have a relationship with Christ. When we worship the Lord together as a family, they experience its significance and beauty. When I pray before them for our needs or about our problems, they learn what to do when they struggle. When I bring them with my to deliver a meal or help a friend, they learn the joy of serving others.
3. Point to Jesus: There are opportunities every day to see the glory of God and the work of Jesus in the world. As I thank the Lord aloud for our blessings and point out His beautiful creation and notice His hand in all of our lessons and in our life, they can see Jesus. And hopefully, with hearts softened and ready, be drawn closer to Him every day.
So my prayer is that I will take greater care in preparing their hearts for Jesus than I spent in preparing their rooms for their arrival. (You know, A LOT more care.)
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Deuteronomy 6:5-7