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Summary: A sermon for the 3rd Sunday in Advent, Series B

3rd Sunday in Advent, December 14, 2008 “Series B”

Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Let us pray: Dear Heavenly Father, we gather together today to worship you and lift our hearts in thanksgiving for your gift of grace, poured out for us through your Son Jesus the Christ. During this Advent season, as the days grow shorter and dimmer, open our hearts and minds through the power of your Holy Spirit, that we might come to more fully realize Jesus as the true light, who brings hope into our darkened world, and the dark corners of our lives. This we ask in his holy name. Amen.

Last Sunday our lesson from Mark’s Gospel introduced us to John the Baptizer, whom he presented as this figure who seemed to step out of the pages of Israel’s past, dawning the clothing and diet of Elijah, to prepare us to receive the Messiah. And according to Mark, John’s message was simple. He is described as calling people to “Repent, for the kingdom of God was coming among us.

This morning, our lectionary again introduces us to the Baptizer, this time according to John’s Gospel, where a different aspect of his message is stressed. This morning’s text makes no mention of the Baptizer’s strange attire, or his prophetic call to confession and repentance. Instead, the author of the fourth Gospel stresses the role of the Baptizer as that of pointing us to the Messiah, who was coming to bring the light of God’s redemption to a darkened world.

And if we look at this message in context, it was a darkened world, and I’m not talking about the shortened, darker days of winter. Israel at that time was living under political oppression at the hands of the Romans, who had captured and occupied their country. Imagine the stress and anxiety that would result from living in such a situation. The times were difficult, uncertainty about the future prevailed.

Think of the situation in Iraq, where so many lives have been lost, far more Iraqi lives than allied forces. Think of the people of that nation, who struggle against the vying forces to secure their cities in order to return to some stability in order to reopen markets and establish some normalcy of life. But unlike the situation in Iraq, the Romans had no desire to leave, and return control of their nation back to the Iraqi people, as do the allied forces.

It was, and still is, a darkened world in which we live. I’ve talked to so many people over the past several months who are feeling a lot of anxiety about the future. So many people have been effected by the down turn in the economy, and feel powerless to do anything about it.

Many are concerned about their pensions, whether they will have enough to live on when they are no longer able to work. Millions of persons over such a short period in our country have been laid off, and there is so little work positions available. Those who do continue to work have found that their jobs have become increasingly stressful, yet if they want to make ends meet, they have to endure the situation. And the threat of terrorism continues to present a continuing threat. Is it any wander that so many persons are feeling depressed. It is a darkened world in which we live.

And it is into our darkened world, with all of its problems that diminish and detract from the joy of life, that John the Baptizer confronts us with his message. But to help clarify his message, let me cite the first five verses of John’s Gospel, omitted by our text.

John writes, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”

In other words, the light to which John the Baptizer came to witness to, and point us to believe in, was the incarnate Word of God, who took place in the creation of the universe, and established life on this planet we call earth. And because of his coming among us, he brings light into our darkened world, giving us hope for a future that the darkness of this world can never snuff out.

But the light of hope to which the Baptizer points us to behold, is not a hope that our belief and faith in Jesus the Christ will make our lives a bed of roses, and enable us to avoid the darkness of our world, or the pains and anxieties that we experience in life. Rather, it is a message that proclaims that in spite of the darkness of our world, and the distress to our lives, the light of hope that Christ provides will ultimately prevail.

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