Today we find ourselves in the second week of Advent, this time of waiting and anticipation of Christ’s return. A time to reflect on our own lives and prepare our hearts to celebrate the birth of our Savior.
The scripture from the beginning of Mark’s gospel is titled, “The Proclamation of John the Baptist.” Mark’s gospel is the shortest of the four gospels, it is direct, it is to the point and each verse is filled with meaning and purpose.
Mark is direct enough that he skips the nativity and baby Jesus account and immediately begins with the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Mark begins his gospel and account of Christ by going back in time.
Mark goes back about 600-700 years to the time of Isaiah. From the Old Testament account of Isaiah he quotes, “A voice cries out: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”
Make straight your paths, for the promised one is coming. In Isaiah’s day he spoke to a Jewish audience that had been exiled. In Mark’s account he talking about Christ and the messenger preparing the way for him.
Mark writes, “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.’
In this painfully hectic time between holidays, how much time are we spending preparing our hearts, souls and minds to meet and be present with our God? This time of year we don’t celebrate credit card debt or empty bank accounts. We don’t celebrate added inches to our waistline.
No, we celebrate the birth of our God. The mystery of the incarnation and the insane lengths our God went to, to reconcile us to him. To bring us closer to him.
In preparing for this sermon I read about and questioned why our God would need someone to prepare the way for him. Why would an all-present and all-powerful God need a man dressed in strange clothes – camel’s hair, and who ate weird things (locusts and honey) to prepare the way for him?
Is it because we all stand on the shoulders and accomplishments of those that have gone before us? We all stand on the ground that was prepared for us by others. All the hard work of our ancestors and their desire to see their children succeed have benefitted each of us.
Unfortunately, these bodies and minds of flesh that have short memories and are inclined to take credit for what has been accomplished.
Even our God, who emptied himself of all his divinity, needed someone to prepare the way for him. An all-present and all-powerful God would rely on a mere mortal to be the voice crying out in the wilderness.
Why would God need someone to prepare the way for him? And why would he pick a strange looking and acting guy to be that person?
….It would take someone with far more knowledge than I to fully answer that question. I think it has to do with the humility of our God. We celebrate, honor and worship a God that gave up the splendor and glory of heaven, all that beauty to come to this world riddled with sickness, disease, war, famine, acts of evil and death.
I think that I would rather look at that from a distance and bask in the beauty of heaven. But not our God. He saw the terrible consequence that sin caused and he decided that something had to be done about it.
He traded his mansion for a mud hut, he traded power for humility and splendor for suffering. He sent his messenger, John the Baptist, before him. John appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
In spite of his strange appearance people flocked to listen to him and to be baptized by him in the Jordan River. “Make straight your paths, prepare the way of the Lord.”
People came from the Judean countryside and from Jerusalem to see, hear and be baptized by John the Baptist. He had his own disciples and was popular enough or posed enough of a threat that even the Pharisees came to see what all the commotion was about.
Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near, make straight your path, prepare the way for the Lord…….Repent……confess……..understand your own brokenness before your God……..ask for forgiveness for the kingdom of heaven has come near…….
What if each of us in our own way is John the Baptist? We may not go out into the timber or near the closest river and cry out or wear strange clothes, but what if each of us as we commit and recommit to our faith every day is living like John the Baptist?
Every time we commit to be read our bibles, to pray, to be a part of a small group, to do something for someone else, every time we chose to be intentional about our faith that we straighten our own path and influence those close to us.
Lives of faith can scream and proclaim the gospel without speaking a single word. Proclaim the gospel always said St. Francis, use words only when necessary.
People went to John the Baptist to repent of their sins and to be baptized. In his humility, John 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.”
John the Baptist knew his mission was to prepare the way for the one that is coming, one far more powerful than he.
We have also been made aware that one that Christ, is going to return. Are we preparing the way for his arrival……
Are we proclaiming the good news of God’s action and arrival in this world, the coming of God’s kingdom, his ministry, death and resurrection?
As we celebrate and honor the second Sunday of Advent, let us remember all of those that have gone before us. Let us remember the spiritual giants in our own lives and Mark’s gospel does recalling the words of Isaiah.
Let us live bold, courageous lives of faith that speak to this world and those in it who we are and what we are about. In this painfully busy time of year, let us slow down and take time to reflect on what is truly important and why we celebrate with gifts, good food and precious time spend with family and friends.
Let us go with the knowledge and the truth that our God is coming back to this earth. It may not be in our lifetime, but he is coming back. If we don’t see him in the time each of us has left, that is no reason or excuse to be convenient or flippant about your faith.
Let us be about the work of the one that created all that is good and holy. Let us be about the work of a God that became the word incarnate. A penniless, nomadic preacher that come to save the souls of many.
Pastor Shawn LaRue, Seymour UMC
Author of Incomplete