We have AMB, Equity One, and Public Storage. Europe, on the other hand, has Land Securities. Land Securities is the largest real estate investment trust in Europe, specializing in commercial property holdings. Their annual revenue is nearly incomprehensible: £1,561 million in 2008. And unless you follow the financial markets closely, you've probably never heard of them. Admittedly, I had never heard of them before I decided to write this blog. What moved me to write about a company which was formerly unknown to me?
Land Securities traces its origins to 1944 when Harold Samuel purchased what was then Land Securities Investment Trust Limited, which owned three houses in Kensington as well as some government stock. It was under Samuel's leadership that the group went from a meager real estate company to the powerhouse holdings company that it is today. What was Samuel's secret to such startling success? In Samuel's own words, it was, "Location, location, location!" For it was Harold Samuel who coined this now oft used real estate cliché that is quoted by everyone from multi-national investment trust CEOs to local real estate agents.
In our reading for today from Matthew 3, we meet a prophet named John the Baptist who, as Matthew informs us, is Jesus' foretold predecessor, paving the way for his ministry. Indeed, Matthew even quotes words from the prophet Isaiah to substantiate his claim concerning John's pedigree: "A voice of one calling in the desert: 'Prepare the way for the Lord'" (verse 3). This is a direct quote of Isaiah 40:3: "A voice of one calling: 'In the desert prepare the way for the Lord.'" Wait just a second. There's a shift, albeit a subtle one, between these two quotes. Did you catch it? The colon has shifted places. In Matthew's version of the quote, it's after the word "desert." But in Isaiah's words, it's after the word "calling." And where this little colon goes makes a surprisingly huge difference.
Many ancient Jews believed that the colon belonged after the word "calling." Thus, the following phrase, "in the desert," described the location of where one was to prepare the way for the Lord. Indeed, there was a whole group of first century Jews called the Essenes who lived in the wilderness at Qumran precisely because they thought the only suitable place to "prepare the way for the Lord" was "in the desert." Matthew, however, maintains that the colon doesn't belong after the word "calling," where the Essenes would place it; instead, it belongs after the word "desert." In other words, the phrase "in the desert" doesn't describe the location of where we are to prepare for the Lord, it describes the location of the "voice" who will announce the Lord's coming. And that voice is the voice of John.
Why is this important? Because the placement of this one little colon radically alters how we prepare for the Lord. Matthew's argument is this: "The first rule of real estate does not apply to the coming of the Lord! For the Lord is not just coming to one specific location, location, location! You can prepare for the Lord's coming anywhere: in the country; in the city; at your home; at your workplace." Every place is a place that you can prepare for God. For, as Scripture promises, God "is not far from each one of us" (Acts 17:27). Or, as John himself says, "The kingdom of heaven is near" (verse 2).
So today, whatever your location, location, location may be, remember that the rules of real estate do not apply to your relationship with God. He is only a prayer, a cry, and a call away.