Summary: A Sermon for the 2nd Sunday in Advent, Series A
2nd Sunday in Advent, December 8, 2007 “Series A”
Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Let us pray: Dear Heavenly Father, God of the prophets, you sent your messenger into the Jordan wilderness to prepare human hearts for the coming of your Son. Through the power of your Holy Spirit, help us to prepare for Christ’s coming into our presence, that we might hear the good news of your saving grace, repent of our sins, and transform our lives to be witnesses to your redeeming grace. This we ask in Christ’s Holy name. Amen. [Adapted from Book of Common Worship: Daily Prayer]
Today, on this Second Sunday in Advent, we encounter one of the most interesting and dynamic characters, outside of Jesus, in all of the New Testament. His name is John. He was, according to Luke’s Gospel, the son of Zechariah, a priest living in Judea, who was married to Elizabeth, a relative of Mary, the mother of our Lord. But John was not known by his last name, as being a son of Zechariah. John was known as the Baptizer.
Now, I use the term John the Baptizer, instead of John the Baptist, because I wouldn’t want to give any of our younger persons here this morning the impression that he was know for his association with a particular denomination of the Christian Church. John was known as the Baptizer, because it was a to describe the significance of his unique ministry. John was called by God to herald and call people to prepare for the coming of the Messiah, the Son of God.
And let’s make no mistake about it. Not only was John’s ministry unique, he was unique. He could have followed in his father’s footsteps, and become a priest, and use that position to call people to prepare for God’s coming among us in the person of Jesus the Christ. But he didn’t. Like a hippie from the Sixties, he left his home, striking out on his own to seek a restless urge within him, leading him to find peace with his soul.
But unlike the hippies, who seemed to follow the beat of their own drum, the beat that pounded in John’s heart was the call of God. Nevertheless, John wound up in the wilderness, dressed in a garment of camel’s hair, and subsiding on a diet of locust and wild honey. And we might conclude that his hair was long and stringy, with a beard that would drive Josie to demand that I go and see Connie for a cut and trim.
John was a rough wilderness person, weathered and stern. And his message was as stern as he was. “Repent of your sins, and prepare the way of the Lord, for God’s kingdom is coming among us.” He called a spade a spade. And yet, the Gospels tell us that in spite of his lack of tact, the people from all the regions left the comfort of their homes and traveled out in the wilderness to hear him preach, repent of their sins, and have their sins be cleansed by baptism.
But Matthew’s Gospel raises a couple of troubling aspects of John’s message for us to consider. When the Pharisees and Sadducees, those who lived their lives striving to keep the commandments and live a life of faith, came to hear John preach and seek his baptism of repentance, John rebuked them. Think about this, here were those who worshiped God on a regular basis, and truly strived to live according to God’s will, persons not unlike ourselves, who gather here every Sunday to worship God. And yet, John calls them a brood of vipers, snakes, those who would want to poison and obstruct the message of the Messiah. It is as if they only wanted to have their skins washed, not their hearts and minds.
Here again, as I mentioned last Sunday, there is a past, future and present tense to this message of Advent. John the Baptizer is calling on us, as he did the people of his day, to prepare for the coming of the Christ and the kingdom of God. And although his message is one that is grounded in history, calling the people of his day to prepare, and look forward to the beginning of Christ’s ministry, it calls them to act in the present moment of their lives with repentance.
And so, if we are to bring John’s message into our present moment, to learn from the past as we look forward to the future, we must realize that we, like those who were the religious faithful of the past, cannot escape John’s call to repentance. We must realize, that in the eyes of God, none of us have lived our lives as God would have us live, and that we, although we are, active members of Christ’s Church, still need to repent, and daily renew the promise of our baptism.