The first part of John’s message was sin and the need for forgiveness. The second part is the person of Jesus Christ. The first verse of the Gospel already has told us who he is. He is “the Son of God.” John tells what this means when he says, “After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie” (v. 7).
When we are told in the very first verse of the Gospel that Jesus Christ is “the Son of God,” I suppose it would be possible to think of those words in a rather bland way, observing, as people have on other occasions, that after all we all are sons and daughters of God, that is, God’s children. There is a sense in which that is true, of course. We are all parts of God’s creation. In Acts the Apostle Paul acknowledged that in a certain sense when he said that “we are all his that is, God’s offspring” (Acts 17:28).
However, when Mark adds John’s explanation of who Jesus is, saying, “After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie” (v. 7), he is identifying this coming Messiah as more than a mere man. He is identifying him as God incarnate. And that is what the quotation from Isaiah does too. It describes the forerunner as calling out to other people: “Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him” (v. 3). That is strong language, because it boldly identifies the one to come as the Lord or Jehovah. The reason why John is unworthy to stoop down and untie his sandals is that the one he is talking about is God.
So here is another way to prepare for Christmas. Realize that what we are dealing with is not merely a beautiful story of a baby lying in a manger, or shepherds, or angels, or wise men. Still less is it mistletoe or candy canes or poinsettias. Christmas is about the coming of God to this earth in the person of his Son Jesus Christ. It is about the incarnation of Deity.
That is what our carols recognize and why we enjoy singing them so much:
Joy to the World! The Lord is come:
Let earth receive her king….
Christ, by highest heaven adored,
Christ, the everlasting Lord!
Late in time behold him come,
Offspring of the Virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see,
Hail the incarnate Deity.
Pleased as man with men to dwell,
Jesus, our Emmanuel.
Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King.”
Silent night! Holy Night!
Son of God, love’s pure light.
Radiant beams from thy holy face,
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at thy birth,
Jesus, Lord, at thy birth.
You cannot prepare for Christmas unless you acknowledge that the one whose birth we celebrate is God and respond to him as you must respond to God, that is, with adoration and thanksgiving. To get ready for Christmas we must get ready to worship God.