There are loads of ways people prepare for Christmas - ordering food, decorating, buying and wrapping gifts. John the Baptist said "Prepare the way of the Lord!" He probably wasn't thinking of the kind of preparations we routinely make each December.
In Luke 3, the people asked John how to be prepared. What John said the coming of Christ should inspire is:
Be generous to those with nothing – don’t take your wealth for granted
John advised those who have two coats to give one away. This meant not hoarding or amassing "stuff". He instructed people to give food to those going without.
For us: While typically Christmas features giving lots to people who already have everything, find a way to share what you have with people who have less. Maybe find a way to change the expectation that excessive gifts is always better.
Be just – don’t extort others just because you feel ripped off yourself
In John’s context, he is talking to tax collectors who are trying to improve their financial situation by putting pressure on people who they can get away with ripping off. The tax collectors had the choice of living modestly with their wage, or living luxuriously by taking extra from the people they were taxing (usually peasants and poor).
For us: This may mean our buying needs to be conscious of the ethics. Buying a little bit less and paying a bit more for each item may mean a better deal for those who produce it.
Be content – otherwise be party to threats, intimidation and blackmail
These soldiers were probably the Jewish guards of the temple and temple courts. The key to their behaviour was their lack of contentment. The desire for more justified in their minds, lies, corruption, bribery, extortion.
For us: Examine what you truly desire this Christmas. Is it a desire for God, for others, or is it a desire for self? Some desires are legitimate and godly – can you trust God with them?
Some desires will ruin your contentment and increase your greed. If you get what you want, will you want more?
Essentially, John is calling people to a central message of Jesus: If you want to be really a child of Abraham, then the covenant is summed up “Love others as you love yourself” and “Do unto others as you have them do to you.”
So how can we make our Christmas season generate these three things:
generosity, justice, contentment?