Summary: Rrepentance is essential if we are going to be prepared for the coming of Christ and his kingdom (Advent, year A, Sunday 2, 9 Dec 01)
John the Baptist was a truly strange fellow.
I can imagine his performance review from the board of clergy examiners.
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Dear John ben Zechariah:
The board of examiners completed their visit and frankly were concerned about several matters pertaining to your person and ministry.
Our initial concern was your choice of location.
It seems to us that conducting religious services in the Judean wilderness is not very sensible.
People have to travel great distances to get there and there is an unacceptable level of danger traversing to and fro said location.
Furthermore, we were concerned about your unprofessional attire. We understand that Elijah wore similar camel hair vestments. But you are not Elijah!
It seems that you are turning religion into a matter of
entertainment and spectacle.
You also failed to treat our examiners in a professional and courteous manner.
When they attempted to enter into the rituals you were performing on people you singled them out for humiliation – referring to them as a "brood of vipers."
The ritual itself leaves much to be desired. If you had completed a degree in theology you would have undoubtedly realized that baptism is reserved for people converting to the one true faith.
Is it really necessary to baptize people who are already children of Abraham?
Finally, we are concerned about the general tone and tenor of your work. Your words are harsh. What these people really need is to be affirmed and encouraged. These are troubling times and your ministry does not do much to help people feel better or cope with the overwhelming pressures of modern life.
Therefore, we respectful request that you cease and desist in providing religious services until we can further examine your credentials and qualifications.
Failure to comply will generate a complaint to King Herod.
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You can imagine that the response to John the Baptist was something along those lines. Indeed, even those who didn’t have an axe to grind with him would have considered him to be truly bizarre. And yet, he is the one that God chose to prepare the people of his time for the coming of the Christ – the Messiah – and his kingdom.
John, who was actually a slightly older cousin of Jesus, was the forerunner – the advance man whose job it was, with his wild preaching and baptisms, to prepare people for the Coming.
And as we work on preparing ourselves for the second coming of Jesus – and to celebrate the first coming on that Bethlehem night – it is imperative that we hear his message again.
Matthew and the other Gospel writers didn’t just include the story of John because they thought he was the kind of guy that everyone should know about – a strange but interesting character.
They were replaying his message for the benefit of their own readers – and for us!
If you are serious about doing Christmas right...
If you are serious about the coming of Christ...
If you are serious about following Jesus you first need to hear and deal with John the Forerunner of Jesus the Messiah.
This morning, I would like to summarize John’s message with five rather quick points. But just because we’re touching on this only briefly doesn’t mean that you should take it all lightly. To the contrary!
The first thing in John’s message that I’d like you to note is that he is calling on you to TURN FROM YOUR SINS.
Look at verse 2 in your Bibles – "Turn from your sins..."
Or some translations simply use the word “repent” – which is very literal – although it’s not too common in everyday usage.
When the coach tells you to run he doesn’t say run to the football goals at the end of the field and then repent.
But that’s what repent means – to turn around – and specifically to turn around and move away from sin. Emotionally, physically, mentally – leave your sin behind and go a different direction.
If you really believe that Christ is coming you will want to get rid of all of the sin in your life. Not that you’ll be capable of doing that on your own; you need to have the Holy Spirit working in your life giving you the strength to abandon everything that
wreaks of sin.
But the point is that if Christ is coming you are not going to want to be around him if you are dressed in sin.
As we learn in D/C (discipleship/confirmation) and I bet that some of our senior adults remember this from confirmation when they were 12 or 13 years old – the catechism question -- “WHAT IS SIN? Sin is all in thought, word, and deed that is contrary to the will of God.”