Summary: Sermon for the 2nd Sunday in Advent, Year A.
Matthew 3: 1 – 12 / Anxiety of Possibility
Intro: Have you ever watched the Ellen Degeneres show? She sends people with a film crew to the home of some unsuspecting person. Can you imagine what that would be like? You have no warning and you are suddenly on national TV. You haven’t had time to comb your hair, change out of your grubby clothes or even do the dishes in the sink. Usually, Ellen’s person has come to give some extravagant gift or a suitcase full of money that is badly needed. Does the possibility overcome the anxiety or vice versa? The camera crew is at the door. Ready or not, you’re on! . . . I don’t know that I would answer the door!
I. We’ve all faced similar circumstances when we just weren’t ready. We may have even known something or someone was coming; but we just weren’t ready.
A. VS. 1 & 2 tell us that John called the people to be ready. He urged them to make preparations and he did so in the wilderness.
B. The wilderness (eremia) was in Israel’s history the place of renewal where the revelation of the Torah was given, and it was a place of judgment where a hardhearted generation perished for lack of faith. A place of judgment and renewal.
C. Worship is always something of a wilderness where people think their lives through and wonder about all that is unknown and frightening and causes them to double- and tripe-check their holds on what is reassuring. The harshest wilderness is within the hearer.
II. Vs. 4 “John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey.” This description of John in Matthew’s gospel is not accidental. There is a logical reason for it.
A. Clothing made of Camel’s hair and leather were identified with the common people, the working class, the poor nomads of the desert. They existed on locusts and honey because that’s all they could afford.
B. The religious leaders lived in the city and dressed as city dwellers in clothing made of cloth because their work would not soil the garments. When there was famine or problems, the people went to the city for answers and assistance.
C. But, here, we see the people going to the wilderness for answers. This was a great change for them. They turned to someone of lowly stature who told them they needed to make some drastic changes in their lives.
III. I’ve noticed that when celebrities get into trouble, many of them make it sound as though they are apologizing, but they’re really not. They say things like, “If I have offended you, I’m sorry.” What is missing from that is the admission of guilt.
A. VS. 7 – 9 are verses that are harsh and critical. We don’t like to hear them because we know all too well that they can apply to us as well.
B. I can hear John now, “Just because you are member of the church, just because you give your weekly offerings, just because your great grandparents were in this church, just because you are n officer, just because you are the minister, doesn’t mean it is time to relax and take it easy and give in to the temptation of thinking this matter of being Christian is under control. --- Don’t presume your past has taken care of your present.” (W. B. Kincaid, III, And Then Came The Angel, CSS Publishing Co., Inc. 1998)
C. We cannot accuse others and excuse ourselves. We must be willing to repent / turn from our ways in the wilderness and live as though our faith really matters.
Conclu: Coming to this table to meet the Spirit of the risen Christ, assures us of God’s nearness and forgiveness. We can and must prepare ourselves for the return of Christ Jesus. I urge you to come from the wilderness of your life and the world around you seeking forgiveness and renewal as a child of God. God’s grace is a free gift to all who seek it.