In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah, "The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'"
John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our ancestor'; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire." And the crowds asked him, "What then should we do?" In reply he said to them, "Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise." Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, "Teacher, what should we do?" He said to them, "Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you." Soldiers also asked him, "And we, what should we do?" He said to them, "Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages." Luke 3:1-14
No matter how well I plan and pack, I always seem to leave something behind. The road I travel is complicated and wondrous, all at the same time and there is much to keep track of. Sometimes, all my preparation seems for naught. But in the midst of this come the words of what it truly means to prepare - share. What we have we are meant to share. Being perfect isn't preparation, and only God's love is perfect. We are blessed to recieve the abundance of God's love.
John is out in the wilderness and the people come to him. They want a check list for how to prepare for God. John's reply is always about relationship, the care and serving of others, setting aside all selfish desires and opening to God's love. This love is never about winning but about compassionate service, of seeing the need and sharing with others. we are invited to prepare by letting go of the things we think we control, and by offering what we have for the service of others.
Today I ask God to help me live in holy preparation. May we let go of the control, which we never really had, and ask God to bless us with a new measure of love and compassion.