Sunday, December 4, 2011

Prepare the Way of the Lord!

Second Sunday of Advent
Mark 1:1-8 (NRSV)
John appears from the wilderness

The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,
"See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way;
the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
'Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,' "
John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, "The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit." 


Greetings in the name of Jesus, the savior of the world. We have gathered to worship, to proclaim Christ crucified and risen, and to share both our joys and our sorrows with one another.

Let us pray...

Today the Gospel of Mark begins in a most confusing way. It says, “[This is] the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God,” then proceeds to lift up the story of John the Baptist.

One might rightly ask, “What does John have to do with Jesus?” Why don’t we encounter Mary, Joseph, and the angels at the beginning of Mark’s gospel? Why don’t we meet the shepherds, wise men, and angelic hosts marching, singing, and dancing into the night? And why don’t we hear the cries of Immanuel as he is swaddled in cloth and laid in a manger?

The answer may be rooted in our own experience this week as we received the news of our own John’s resignation from his call as the senior pastor of our church. Or perhaps the answer can be found in the World AIDS Day litany and in the lives of the lost, forgotten, forsaken, sick, needy, orphaned and widowed for whom we prayed. Or perhaps the answer is found in our own hearts as the wings of grief beat against the doors of our souls as we endure the onslaught of emotions that come with our own bad news narratives—a sick spouse, a wayward child, a lost job, a dying loved one…

As we lit our advent candle today we cried out, “Gracious God, Grant that we may find peace as we prepare for our Lord’s birth…”

But, where is that peace? And how can it be found?

Well, the prophet Isaiah said, “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight…”

Oh! Thank God!

There is one crying out into the wildernesses of our lives. There is one crying out into the inhospitable, cold, dark, and barren places of our hearts. There is one crying out…

“Prepare the way of the Lord!”

Prepare the way of the Lord…into the midst of all of our bad news experiences. Prepare the way of the Lord…into our depression, betrayal, and dismay. Prepare the way of the Lord…into our impossible circumstances. And Prepare the way of the Lord…into words we had hoped we would never hear, “I therefore resign my call, effective immediately.”
 “There is one more powerful than I that is coming after me; I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

Advent, literally means, “to come.” And during the season of Advent we wait with great expectation to experience the salvation of our Lord. As with any long period of waiting, we know that the final days are the hardest to bear. We struggle to understand why we ourselves, never mind the rest of creation, must wait any longer for the complete salvation and redemption that our God has promised to each of us.” (

Yet, in Isaiah 40, God says to us today, “Comfort, O comfort my people, Speak tenderly to them and cry to her that…one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.” (Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, “I Have A Dream”)

On the day of our baptisms the pastor stated, “God who is rich in mercy and love, gives us a new birth into a living hope through the sacrament of baptism. By water and the Word God delivers us from sin and death and raises us to new life in Jesus Christ. We are united with all the baptized in the one body of Christ, anointed with the gift of the Holy Spirit, and joined in God’s mission for the life of the world.”

My dear ones, here is the “highway for our God!” Here is Christ’s inroad into our wilderness.

As we confess our sins crying out, “Oh God we have been unfaithful to you. Like dry leaves and withered grass our lives are blown about by our sins and the powers of evil around us…” the light of God’s hope and the light of God’s peace begins to shine all around us!

As we daily crawl back to the font of our baptisms, re-immersing ourselves again and again in the unconditional love and amazing Grace of our God revealed to us on Golgotha’s Hill, we find that we are able to walk in the light as we share the good news—ever declaring the mystery of our faith--“Christ has died! Christ has risen! Christ shall come again!”

There is a reason that John stood at the river. As we wade in the water, we are reminded that it is God—and God alone—who is able to meet us in the darkness and usher us into the light.

John is a bright light for Jesus. He is a voice proclaiming good news in the wilderness. He is full of God’s grace and God’s truth.

And by his example we are invited to keep on doing what we’ve done from the beginning. We are exhorted to redouble our efforts on behalf of the Kingdom of Love. We are extolled to be energetic in our lives of salvation. We are reminded to always allow God’s energy, which is deep within us to enable and equip us to do God’s holy and perfect will.

There is not one person in this room that has not—or will not—experience a dark night of the soul.

But, the good news is, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

Today, I can hear John saying, “Peace I leave you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”

In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen.

If you have questions about how to become a friend and follower of Jesus, please see the devotion entitled, “Come to Jesus”@

No comments:

Post a Comment