December 7 2014
Well, we are now well into our celebration of the season of Advent and our preparations for Christmas. In Advent we wait and prepare for the coming of Christ. We wait and prepare ourselves for the coming of God into our lives, touching us and changing us with God’s mysterious, life changing love, a love so great that God breaks into our lives in surprising ways, like a, baby in a manger who becomes an adult on a cross and invites us into deeper and more meaningful relationships with God and others.
In the Church year the season of Advent is a season of expectant hope, but in we call “the real world” the weeks before Christmas are filled with hectic, frenzied activity and trying to get too many things done too quickly. If we are not careful, it can be a depressing season, not a joyous season.
Maybe you’ve come to church today hoping for a break from all the frenzy, activity, and guilt. Well, if that’s what you’re looking for today maybe you are already disappointed, because the Mark 1 passage we have in front of us does not have the calming effect you might want, but it might have the effect you need.
In Mark 1 we come face to face with John, who is, to say the least, a religious fanatic. He does not provide much of a break to all the frenzy and anxiety of our daily lives and gives no break from the feeling of guilt. His effect on us is not calming, nor is it meant to be. Maybe you have come seeking some relief from all the anxieties and tension of your daily life and are now cringing as you come face to face with John, the wild eyed fanatic with a single message: God is coming! Repent! Repent! Nope – there is not much relief here!
John had no time for beating around the bush or polite conversation. He had one thing on his mind — declaring that God was coming and that the people needed to repent. Apparently John attracted a lot of attention. The whole Judean countryside and all of Jerusalem went to hear him, and many were baptized. He was a compelling prophet with a compelling message!
The Hebrew people had prayed for centuries for God to come into their lives in a new way. And now that those still living in the land promised to their ancestors were under Roman domination some prayed for freedom more fervently, while others lead open revolts for freedom. Into this volatile mix came this fanatic preaching that God had come and for the people to repent. It certainly struck a chord within the people. Many who heard John responded and were baptized. The message of John made a difference in their lives.
They were desperate people, at the end of their rope, almost to the point of giving up. Why should God come and change their lives? And fanatical John kept standing on the banks of the Jordan and kept shouting, and the people kept coming to that man in that place and kept listening and kept repenting and kept being baptized and kept having their lives changed and kept hoping for God to come and change their lives in a new, real way.
You know, we may feel that we have an advantage over those who heard the words of John. We may feel we have a distinct advantage because we know what happened next. We know that Christ came. We know that God entered the world. We know that the world has been changed forever. We may feel this gives us an advantage over those who originally heard John, but does it?
At least they let the coming of God make a difference to them. At least they let the coming of God change their lives. At least they made a response to the promises of God to come into their lives and change them. At least they let their lives be changed.
But you know, God still comes, and John’s message of the need for repentance is still the same. The people who first heard John’s message felt lost and alone. To them, John’s message was good news. It was life changing news. The time of feeling lost was over. God was coming. Being baptized was only an outer sign of an inward feeling of renewed life and hope as they believed that God was coming to change their lives and their world. Many people feel lost and desperate today. Many may be yearning for some message of hope. John’s message may not be a message of relaxation from the stress of our lives, but maybe it is a message of hope for us and for all the world.
It can be a message of hope for you.
Maybe to you the world seems like shattered dreams. Maybe your marriage or your family or your relationships are not what you had hoped they would be. Maybe your job doesn’t hold the potential you may want for your family or for yourself. Or maybe your retirement years may not be what you had planned on their being. Or maybe your health may be a problem instead of an asset. Or maybe a friend or loved one is sick or dying or has recently died and you are grieving the loss. Or maybe you look at the poverty, drugs, disease, violence and tragedy in the world around you from Fergerson Missouri to New York City to Kabul Afghanistan and even here in Sanford and wonder if there is any reason, any reason at all, to hope that there is anything that even God could do to make things better. Or maybe just the celebration and the stress, the importance placed on the “perfect Christmas” that is impossible to achieve, is too much for you.
Well if that be the case then I have good news for you today. Listen up because I am going to tell you something that can be the best news you have ever heard — and not just those of you who are hurting in one way or another but all of you, indeed all of us, need to hear this good news, this best news ever.
Are you ready to hear it? Here it is: God is coming! Repent! Prepare the way!
The same words John proclaimed on the banks for the Jordan I proclaim to you today: God is coming! Repent! Prepare the way!
If you feel lost, lonely, or desperate the message of John is the best news you can hear. God is coming! Repent! Prepare the way!
For all in our community, indeed for all the world, the message of John is the best message of all.
The words of John, if you act on them and let them change your life, can be the most important words you have ever heard. God is coming! Repent! Prepare the way!
On this second Sunday in Advent as we approach the birth of Christ hear this good news again. To all who are weary. To all who feel lost. To all who feel hopeless. Indeed to all people the Good News is: God is coming! Repent! Prepare the way!
Today, now, hear and believe that God is coming into the world, and let that good news change your life. Let the good news, the fact that Christ has come, give you hope and change your life now and forever, and share the good news and life changing hope of the coming of Christ with all people in your words and your actions. Amen.