Summary: A sermon for the second Sunday in Advent.
By: Rev. Kenneth Emerson Sauer, Pastor of Parkview United Methodist Church, Newport News, VA
“We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming to bring you this ‘Breaking News.’”
These are the kinds of words that cause us to sit up, call our family members into the room and watch and listen, with hearts racing, as our normal routine is interrupted by some urgent message.
What is it?
What is happening?
And will this change our world, our day--our sense of normalcy?
In our Gospel Lesson for this morning we have a record of some ‘Breaking News’ as it spread across the Jewish world some 2,000 years ago.
It is “the beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God” coming out of the “desert region” and going into “the whole Judean countryside” and all of Jerusalem brought forth by John the Baptist, a man who “wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.”
Locusts can mean the little bugs or a nut, the carob that poor people often ate.
The honey may have come from wild bees or it may have been a kind of sap from certain trees.
Whatever it was, the point is that John ate the diet of the very poor.
He was a simple prophet who pointed to someone beyond himself.
John came, “baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins…
… And this was his message: ‘After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
When John the Baptist appears preaching repentance, the regular routine of daily life is interrupted as the curtain goes up on the great drama of salvation.
As this good news, this ‘good breaking news’ was first proclaimed it moved up and down the country roads of Galilee and the city streets of Jerusalem, and men and woman were made whole.
Jesus said, “Follow me,” and many persons did follow Him, their lives deepened with new faith and enlarged with new purpose.
It was ‘good breaking news’ as it went out to the hard Roman world in the first century--down into the ghettos and slums of Greek and Roman cities, where life was bound with every conceivable chain.
The ‘good breaking news’ came with a proclamation that lifted the downtrodden, the persecuted and the captives to their feet!
And it continues to be ‘good breaking news’ down through the centuries, out through all the nooks and corners of the globe as the oppressed, the marginalized, the wretched people of the earth—the people who don’t count—stand up because of it and find out that they do count very much indeed!!!
The people to whom Jesus turned His attention are referred to in the gospels by a variety of terms: the poor, the blind, the lame, the crippled, the lepers, the hungry, the miserable, the prostitutes, all who labor and are overburdened, the least, the last…and it goes on and on.
This is a well-defined and unmistakable section of the population.
Jesus generally refers to them as the poor or the little ones.
The Pharisees refer to the same people as sinners or the rabble who know nothing of the law.
Today, some of us might refer to this section of the population as the lower classes; others might call them the oppressed.
They have no prestige or honor.
To many, there lives are meaningless.
In Jesus’ day, many who were considered ‘sinners’ were the social outcastes for whom the laws and customs were so complicated that they were really incapable of understanding what was expected of them.
Education in those days was a matter of knowing the Scriptures—which was a matter of knowing the law and all its ramifications.
Therefore, the illiterate and the uneducated were inevitably the lawless and immoral.
There really was no practical way out for the poor uneducated sinner….
until…until…Jesus came along!
Jesus came from the middle class, and one of the remarkable things about Jesus was that, although he came from the middle class, He hung out or mixed socially with the lowest of the low and identified Himself with them.
Jesus became an outcaste by choice.
Why did Jesus do this?
The answer comes across very clearly in the gospels: compassion.
“He was moved with compassion for the crowds and he healed their sick.”
“He was moved with compassion because they were distressed and dejected like sheep without a shepherd.”
For many of the folks who Jesus touched, moved with, mingled with, and loved their suffering had taken the form of frustration, guilt and anxiety.