Day 8 – Illuminate the Path: John the Baptist, John the Trailblazer

Advent 2021 Day 8 Devo Image

“Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him 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 before he is born. He will bring back many of the people of Israel 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 parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”—Luke 1:13–17 (NIV)

I will never forget my first time hiking on the Appalachian Trail. Three friends and I went on a three-day, 30-mile hike back in 2008. I had never done a hike before, let alone a multi-day trip. I over prepared—new hiking boots, a new hiking backpack, all sorts of food, water purifying tablets, utensils, tent, sleeping bag, and so much more.

Now this may sound crazy, but there was one thing I didn’t think of: how to get from point A to point B. That’s right! We didn’t know where we were going. We bought a map at the trail gift shop, but that really didn’t help that much. That’s when we learned about the most essential part of hiking: the trail is marked by white blazes (a white rectangle of paint) about every 70ft. Once we learned that, we had full confidence in where we were going.

That got me thinking about how thankful I am for those who came before us to mark the trail. At one point, this was just a big forest on top of the mountains, but over the years it was turned into a 2,190 mile trail from Georgia to Maine in which over 3 million people a year experience. I know nothing about the people who came before us and chopped down trees, set the trail, and then marked it, but I do know our trip wouldn’t have been possible without them.

At this point you’re probably wondering, what does this have to do with Christmas? Great question! In Luke 1 we read about a miracle baby born to Zacharias and Elizabeth. I say miracle because they were old and Elizabeth was barren, yet God chose to bless them with a baby boy named John. You may know him as John the Baptist. John was born with perhaps the greatest responsibility any person has been given: to prepare the world for Jesus. In John 1:23 (NIV), John describes himself as “the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’”

John was a simple guy. There was really nothing special about him. You might even describe him as weird. He wore camel hair for clothes and ate locusts and honey. You would never think he’d be the forerunner to Jesus. You also never would have thought his parents could have a baby. But this is how God works! So, God sent John to be a trailblazer. He prepared people for the coming of Jesus by preaching repentance and baptizing them with water.

As thankful as I am for those who prepared and marked the trail for my hiking trip, I’m even more thankful for John—a simple man who embraced God’s calling and pointed countless people to the coming Messiah. You can prepare all you want, gather all the supplies you could possibly need, but if you don’t know the way, all of that is pointless.  So John prepared the way for us and pointed us to the one who is “the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6). And now it’s our turn. How can you do for others what John did for so many?