2nd Sunday in Advent
December 8, 2013
Matthew 3: 1-12
“Repent and believe, the Messiah is at hand.”
John the Baptizer here. Good morning. Whew! Kind of a relief to here, indoors, and among people who have come to prepare for the birth of the Messiah. He was my cousin, you know, and our mothers were very close. I grew up knowing that my job was going to be hard, and that people weren’t going to be glad to see me coming. But I was amazed when I started preaching at the River at who came out to be baptized.
It was a ritual that people did to be ready for something new that was coming. They had a chance to confess their failures and their disappointments, and to turn the page, so to speak to begin a new life. it had been a ritual among certain parts of my tradition for a long time, but lots of people who were not part of my tradition came, too. I’m not sure what it was – the times were ugly and people felt as if they’d never have a chance for the life they wanted for themselves and their families. Money was scarce, people were out of work, and in some ways it was hardest on children, because they didn’t have all the advantages that their parents had experienced.
I knew that my cousin Jesus was about to start preaching and teaching – he called me the new Elijah. You know, Elijah was supposed to return to announce the new age when the Messiah came to recreate earth and heaven and save people from their despair. It would be the beginning of a new age in which God’s Kingdom came to earth, and all people would see God’s hand at work and peace would reign supreme. There would be no more war, children would always be safe, animals who preyed upon each other would lie down together.
I saw it so clearly, that when the church guys came out and made fun of me, it made me crazy. I called them out – those creeps. They sit in their prayer sessions and keep all the rules about feasts and fasts, but they mostly do it to show off to each other. They are not compassionate. They do not help the people who have the most needs. They don’t care that people don’t have jobs or that the jobs they have don’t pay enough to support a family. They don’t care that schools are awful or that there’s just not opportunity for people to get out of poverty. They are just so satisfied with themselves they make me sick.
So there were some days when I just lost it, ranting at them to get off their butts and do something that mattered to show that they were God’s people. But that was the other part of my job – to be a truth teller. The world doesn’t really appreciate truth-tellers, and things didn’t go so well for me. I ended up in prison to telling the truth about the disgusting life of our ruler Herod, and I lost my life in the end. It didn’t go so well for my cousin, Jesus either.
He was the Messiah, the One God’s people had been waiting for so long. No matter how many times I told them to repent and prepare for the new age that was born with the Messiah, people kept on doing what they always did. But I know now that Jesus’ life did not go unnoticed, even though the hearts of the church guys were never changed, I know that the world did hear the message brought by the angels, told by the shepherds, preached by the ones who were sent into the world to tell of the Messiah.
I know that’s why you are here. You have heard the message down through all the ages, and your hearts have been stirred by the Holy Spirit. You have been baptized in a way I never could bring you, because the Holy Spirit of Jesus has touched your head and heart and lips and hands. You are here to repent, to take this word of Jesus into your life and live it every day. Doing good things as God’s people, the actions that the church guys in my day never took seriously is an important part of life, but it isn’t what saves you or what makes God love you.
It is God’s love that saves us all. it is God’s love that sent me to my parents who had prayed for a child every day of their life together. It is God’s love that sent me out to call people to repentance, and to tell everyone that the Messiah was in their midst. It is God’s love that brought Jesus as a baby to change the world. And God’s love that forgives our sins and the sin of all the weary world, so that we can live in freedom to be God’s hands and heart in the world.
You bear the message of hope now. You are the ones to tell the story and be the instruments of peace in the world. My time as God’s messenger is done, now it is for you to spread the word and live the new life that God has granted you. May you find joy in the message and in the work of the love of God which came to earth to change despair into new hope. May all creation glow with the Light of Christ as we turn again toward God’s coming to us.
You are invited to use the slips in your bulletin to write your prayers for the joy and hope of the creation as we prepare for the beginning of God’s new age when our Savior is born. You may drop them in the copper bowl as you leave this morning.
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.