Summary: Mark offers us a deep look into the call to repent. This sermon, brings us back into the day when all of Jerusalem traveled 25 miles or so to see what John the Baptist was all about. Would you be as dedicated and driven?
2nd Sunday in Advent
December 7, 2008 “Series B”
Are You Excited to Repent?
What gets you excited with anticipation? I am talking about the sort of excitement that keeps you up at night. You used to own tons of examples of this sort of excitement when you were all kids. You had anticipation of a birthday party and Christmas with presents under the tree. You had excitement as you prepared for your first date and when you went to get your first drivers license. Do you remember how you felt during those moments? Excitement with anticipation continued into adulthood when you could not wait to pop the question to the woman you love or you could not wait to receive the offer from the man who captured your heart. So as I reflected upon my own question, I was able to come up with a whole slew of personal examples of excitement with anticipation right up to and including the day I became a daddy but, after that I had a very hard time coming up with further examples. And no, get that out of your mind, my children are not the reason why my sleepless nights of anticipated excitement have all but subsided. I think the real reason I can provide fewer examples today is because there are fewer things around me that are new. Those words out of Ecclesiastes, the ones that say, “there is nothing new under the sun” become more and more evident. And when nothing seems new, or fresh in your life, anticipation with eager excitement will not be too evident in your life or your faith.
So, unless you plan on taking a two week cruise to all sorts of exotic and warm locations today, I would like to offer you an opportunity to regain that sort of excitement and fresh adventure that comes with something new. But in order to do that I have to take you back in time, oh about 2000 years ago, to somewhere in Jerusalem. You work hard to make ends meet and you also hold in your heart the seemingly recent restoration of your homeland after the Babylonian captivity. It was 400 years earlier but is fresh in your heart. You recall the Grace given to your people but you also treasure the words in Malachi 3:1 that says, “See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come, says the Lord Almighty” You treasure these words and for generations the Lord’s Words excited your family with anticipation. Then one day, news came telling about a person baptizing in the desert region. This man was also preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As you and your family reflected upon this news, you suddenly remembered these words spoken by Isaiah,
“Comfort, comfort my people says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins. A voice of one calling: “in the desert prepare the way for the Lord.” You then wonder if what you have heard taking place in the desert region is the fulfillment of what Isaiah spoke of so long ago. After prayer, you try to go to sleep but, you cannot. Excitement overwhelms you as you decide that upon daybreak you and your family will walk the twenty-five mile trek to reach the Jordan, where this preacher resides.
Upon daybreak you soon realize that you are not the only family traveling to the Jordan river because walking in the same direction is the entire Judean countryside and apparently the entire population of Jerusalem. Your excitement explodes within you and joy fills your heart as you quickly realize that your insight from Isaiah the night before was obviously experienced by all your people.
The journey was long and your camel only could manage 2 miles to the gallon but, tired hungry and quite thirsty you arrive and you are surrounded by a sea of humanity longing to hear what this preacher had to say. You wait and soon the man, who you hear whispered by others is called John, raises his arms to silence the crowd. The pause is deafening! In that brief moment you imagine what might be said. Possibly, this John will tell you that your hard life is now over or maybe that God will soon bless you with many fine things but, you quickly dismiss that idea after you notice that the preacher is wearing clothing made out of camel’s hair. You also heard through the grapevine that he eats locusts and wild honey. Suddenly, the Baptizer speaks. “Repent! For the Kingdom of heaven is near.” After listening to his call for repentance, you and your family run to him and find yourselves confessing your sins. All your sins that you could recall were confessed with eagerness because with even greater expectation you wanted to be Baptized. You stood before the Baptizer and he speaks to you saying, “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandles I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” As you walk away you again recall the words of Isaiah, “Comfort, comfort my people…her sin has been paid for.”