Second Sunday of Advent
Matthew 3:1 12 (NRSV)
In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near." This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said,
"The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
'Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.' "
Now John wore clothing of camel's hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.
But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Do not presume to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our ancestor'; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
"I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire."
Today is the first Sunday in Advent. The word Advent means “to come” or “to arrive.” It is the start of the Christian Calendar and the time set aside by The Church to think about “the coming of Christ” as we give thanks for the Old Testament prophets who declared his coming, the Word and Sacrament that bring Christ to us in the present, and the promise of Christ’s glorious return in the future!
Advent is a glorious time! My daughter started counting down to Christmas just a few days ago. And yesterday, I overheard her ask one of her new sisters, “Aren’t you excited to celebrate the birth of Jesus?!”
If only all of us had this childlike spirit of anticipation, joy, and wonder as we contemplate the coming of Christmas.
See, Advent is a time of waiting, praying, and preparing. It is marked by a spirit of expectation, anticipation, preparation, and longing…
In the church, we will light our advent wreaths. We will give our children Advent Calendars. We will enjoy the hanging of the green and beauty of the Christmas decorations.
Oh! How I love to see the church adorned for Jesus’ birthday party! The evergreens signify eternal life. The advent wreath is a circle, representing the eternal nature of God and the promise of eternal life. The Christ candle in the center of all things, is a constant reminder that Christ truly is the reason for the season! And thus, this season is all about HOPE, PEACE, JOY, AND LOVE.
Here in our church, during Advent 2010, we have chosen to focus our preaching ministry on the lives and legacies of three people who are central to the Christmas story—John the Baptist, Mary, and Joseph.
Into each of these people’s lives came an angel, or a bearer of the good news, who foretold the coming of a special child who would change the world!
Today, we are privileged to turn our attention to John the Baptist and this is fitting on the first Sunday of Advent, because he is indeed an individual whose whole life was dedicated to the spirit of Advent.
In the Gospel lesson, we are reminded that John the Baptist was the much awaited and beloved son of Elizabeth and Zechariah. As per the angel’s words to his father, the call upon John’s life was to prepare the people, for the coming of the Lord!
What an awesome task and what a huge responsibility! Yet, John lived into his calling with grace and is now considered one of the heroes of our faith. As a little child, I remember learning about John and being amazed by his steadfast devotion to fulfilling his role in the good news story.
See, John was a harbinger. The dictionary defines a harbinger as, “one who goes ahead and makes known the approach of another.”
John was a harbinger for Jesus. He was a herald. He proclaimed and announced the good news that Jesus was the Lamb of God, sent into the world to make atonement for sin.
Before John’s birth an angel appeared to his father and prophesied that John would bring joy and gladness to others, be great in the sight of the Lord, and filled with the Holy Spirit. Additionally, John would turn people back to God with sprit and power, as he prepared people for the coming of the Lord.
Now, that was a hefty job description, but we know that ultimately John was faithful to the task, even unto death. Some of us may feel like we could never be as faithful as John, but the amazing thing is, with the help of God and the power of the Holy Spirit, we too, can be harbingers for Jesus in this Christmas season!
On Friday, millions of people flocked to the mall to take part in the Black Friday sales. People started lining up outside of stores at midnight, braving the cold, crowds, and parking lots, because they wanted to procure more and more things for themselves and others.
It is a sad fact that many of our family, friends, neighbors, and loved ones will get caught up in a commercialized Christmas. They will run through the malls, spending money they don’t have, making bills they cannot pay, all in an effort to “keep up with the Jones.”
But, as Christians, we are called to be counter cultural. Although we may not chose to live in the desert, eating wild honey and locusts, we can still be like John. We can be harbingers for Jesus! We can be a voice crying in the wilderness! We can be steadfast in our call to prepare the way of the Lord during this holiday season!
As we share the hope, peace, joy, and love of Christmas, others will experience joy and gladness. As we set a good example for others as we get still, quiet, reflective, and prayerful, perhaps our loved ones will rest in peace. As we commit to buying less stuff, and giving and worshipping more, we will share the true spirit of Christmas with those in need!
This is a most wonderful time of year, my friends!
It is my prayer that during this Advent Season Christians all over the world will be known for proclaiming the coming of Christ in their neighborhoods. By our examples, we can point people toward God as we intentionally choose not to embrace the stress and strain of doing too much, with too little, but rather to put all of our hope in Christ who lived and died and lived again to make atonement for our sin and gift us with eternal life!
If you have questions about how to become a friend and follower of Jesus, please see the devotion entitled, “Come to Jesus” @ http://bit.ly/JVhaLta