HOW CAN WE PREPARE FOR CHRISTMAS
Mark 1: 1-8 ADVENT 2—Dec. 2014
It was around 30 BCE when God had sent a Messenger to the Israelites named John the Baptist. We remember the story told by Luke, how the elderly couple Zechariah and Elizabeth had a son born about the same time Jesus was born. They named him John and the story tells us he was a cousin of Jesus but we haven’t heard from him for 30 years.
Let’s take a look as John breaks on to the scene
Look there’s a crowd gathering on the shores of the Jordan River, we squeeze through the crowd and there on the shore we spy this wild looking man. He looked like a religious fanatic.
I’m sure He won 1st. prize in the People Magazine contest for the worst dressed people of 29 BC.
He wore fur git-up, that made him smell like a camel--not only that he lived on honey and wild grasshoppers!
He was more than a little strange. The people are saying he lived in the wilderness and is called “John the Baptist.”
We all stare in amazement as he turns and starts walking out into the Jordan River. Just picture it. The crowd is silent, thiking he was going to drown himself—a martyr.
He gets to about waist high and the water starts to lap at waist and turns toward us and shouts at the top of his lungs.
Suddenly, John the Baptist and cries out “Prepare the Way” for the one that is coming-- REPENT—change your Ways—make an about face. And receive FORGIVENESS by baptism.
Everyone was stunned, you could hear a pin drop.—murmurs started throughout the crowds, Repent-- Forgiveness--Baptism. What’s it all about?
This preacher doesn’t give up. He cries out again, The one who is coming is far greater than I. One whose sandals I am unfit to untie!
The crowds begin to recognize he is quoting from the prophet Isaiah.
Now the crowd knew what this was all about.
The long awaited one was coming!
Suddenly like responding to a starter pistol, hundreds poured down the banks of the Jordan River, wanting to be baptized and to Repent.
Now they were Prepared!
John certainly gave them Hope, but that was many years ago, in a different time and a different place. Is it possible for us to claim that HOPE and PEACE the crowd felt back then?
The people of Jesus day who felt forsaken them, there are times we too feel God has forgotten us—we seemed to be caught in the jaws of consumerism-we witness corruption in Gov’t. and in Corporations -- face the threat from home-grown terrorists. We often feel alone in a cold heartless world.
Is it possible for us to feel peace and joy during this Christmas Season-- to feel God’s love brought by the birth of the Christ child.
What if we give John suggestion a try—remember John was telling people to get right with God-by REPENTING.
Repentance, for the people of John’s day, was not a popular idea! Nor, is it today.
If a poll were taken here this morning, many of us would say, “ Repentance --what is it and who needs it!”
A good place to start, is to understand the true meaning of repentance
In the Hebrew language, Repentance has two (2) implied meanings ---
--Let talk about the first meaning, “To change our ways, to change the direction of our lives”
REPENT is a turning away from SELF-CENTEREDNESS AND SELF-SUFFICIENCY AND TRUSTING GOD. It’s to start a new page.
Is it possible that today we are out of sync with Jesus teachings? Maybe we need to start over again?
I’m sure this year some of us might be living through some personal wilderness experience, a lonely experience of disappointments, health problems, discouragement, maybe soured relationships, job stress or money problems.
Maybe we have been in the wilderness and long for Hope and Peace.
Maybe it’s been a long time since we’ve heard a word from God, or felt God’s presence in our life.
Maybe the feeling is that our prayers stop at the ceiling, or maybe we have just stopped praying!
“Hey You.” says John, “turn your life around, go in another direction, discover what God is doing!”
I remember an artist painting of Jesus standing knocking at the door, In this particular picture, there’s no handle on the outside of the door—only an inside handle, you see, the artist is saying only we can open the door-- Jesus stands on the outside waiting for an invitation to help us change direction.
Fred Craddock, a well known minister, describes it this way. “Imagine a child in school doing arithmetic, it’s the third grade, makes a mistake, tries to erase it, tears the page.
Teacher says, “Turn in your papers.” She starts crying, “I’ve torn the page; I was trying to erase it. I wanted to get it right, I’ve torn my paper.” The teacher says, “Why don’t you just take a new page and do it again.”
Sometimes the Bible uses that image-a new page-- a New Beginning.
That’s what John preached!
--the second meaning of REPENT is “To see beyond” what going on in our lives today--To have a VISON of the future.
We say, “Not me! What do I know about the future?
Well…The prophet Isaiah 2900 years earlier had a vision found in our Old Testament Lesson-Listen to his vision
The wolf shall live with the lamb,
The leopard shall lie with the kid.
The calf and the lion will eat together.
The children will play with snakes.
They will not hurt or destroy each other.
All the earth with know of the love of God.
What beautiful imagery about HOPE and PEACE taken from the natural world.
Here was John coming out of the wilderness:
--he had no title or authority,
--he didn’t really know when this Anointed One would come
--John didn’t even know who Anointed One was!
Yet John had a vision “to see beyond” what was. -- To see the anointed one was soon to appear, the One foretold by the prophets of old, coming to save the people.
In preparing for Christmas this Advent, we need have a vision-- to “see beyond the present day” beyond a world that’s full of wars, famine, floods and oppression to a brighter day!
A world where all people are treated equal.
A world of compassion where people come first
A world with no wars and no hunger
Vision of a new planet.
Of course we need some personal visions-- The candles on Our Advent wreath can give us some suggestions --We might offer:
- HOPE by showing care for those who are in need,
- PEACE - by not keeping grudges.
- LOVE by hugging someone who is sad or tired.
- JOY by helping someone by showing that you care.
Let us make this Advent season –a time of preparing—a time of CHECKING OUR LIFE’S DIRECTION, to check if our page is torn-- a time of DREAMING NEW VISIONS of the wonderful future God has planned.
John’s message to Repent is not such a bad an idea and as
John said, “It will help us fulfill our dreams and prepare us receive God’s anointed One.” Amen
Let us pray
Abundant God, in this time of buying and selling,
accumulating and overindulgence, we draw closer to you.
Help us share out of our abundance.
Many among us cannot celebrate joyfully, life has dealt them severe blows and their faith has been shaken. Some are so ill
Christmas has become a burden rather than a blessing. Others,
walking in loneliness, feeling like strangers standing outside the party looking in. Some wonder if there will ever be a joyous Christmas for them again. Let the bright star of Bethlehem shine in their skies, we pray. Through the darkness of their night may they hear the angels’ voices singing the good news. And may those of us more able to celebrate his coming seek out the ones needful of his presence and share the joy of Christmas with them.
Help us proclaim your good news in our words and in our actions.
Baptize us with your love, that we may be your living presence
in the world. Amen.
We await the coming of God’s child,
the one who comes to bring love and peace.
As we go to our homes and community
let the light from the Advent candles
spill over into our daily lives.
May we show ourselves to be God’s people
as we reach out in love and charity
to everyone we meet.
And now may the love of God fill our hearts
with hope, peace joy and love throughout
the whole year.