We have had a busy week with the Thanksgiving weekend followed by Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. Our float looked grand in the Albion Aglow Parade, thank you to Dick, Mary, Glen, and Lisa for walking. Dick is hoping a couple men will come out to his place and help take the float a part so it can be put back in storage. St. James’ hosted the first Advent lunch last Wednesday, many thanks to Glenda, Glen and Willie for providing an excellent lunch. You missed some fantastic cookies! There is a schedule for the remaining Advent Lunches on the back table. I hope you can attend one or two. I will be the speaker on December 14th at the Free Methodist Church on Maple Street. When I dropped in on the Christmas Bazaar and Cookie Walk on Saturday morning I found the Parish Hall very busy. I am told there was a line down the walk waiting for the doors to open. Thank you to Patti, Monna, Glenda, Willie, Bev, Diana, Phyllis, Tamara, Dick, Mary and everyone else who baked cookies and bought cookies.
December is a busy time of the year shopping, baking, visiting family, friends and neighbors, decorating and preparing for the holidays, for the Holy Days, for Christmas. Early December is also Advent and as I am sure every priest has told you for as long as you can remember it is also a time to slow down, to reflect on the meaning of the season, to prepare for the coming of the Messiah. With the hustle and bustle of the season, with the continuing turmoil following the general election and with the general uneasiness we find in life such as illness, end of life issues, and unemployment, we seek the peace and calm that only God can offer. This is not unique to our generation. From the eighth century BC we hear the words of Isaiah prophesying of the coming of a great king who will rule with wisdom and understanding, counsel and might, knowledge and fear of the Lord, a time when the people no longer need to worry about rival leaders, war or invasion, a time when even the predator and his prey will rest in harmony. Don’t we yearn for a time when our elected officials work together for the benefit of our country, all the people of this country and in fact for all nations and all people? Don’t we long for a time when we do not need to send our sons and daughters to war or worry about terrorists or weapons of mass destruction here or abroad? Don’t we hope for a world where our children’s children’s children have abundant fresh food and water, when there is no concern for pollution and environmental disaster, where they live in harmony with all of God’s creation, where God rules as their king and leader?
We long for a leader who will lead with justice and righteousness, who will give justice to the rich and the poor, who will bring prosperity to our land, who will defend the needy and stand with the poor against their oppressors, do we not pray for peace now and forever more?
As Paul wrote to the Romans, scripture, history, stories are written for our instruction. We learn that each generation has men and women who seek power and personal gain at the expense of others. We find children and orphans who are abused by those who should be protecting them. We tell stories of us and them, of the fear of the other, of the fear of being discovered. We hear stories of people yearning for peace and harmony and prosperity and a time when we are all one big happy family with no other. We hear stories of people calling for God’s help, of prophets promising that God will intervene with justice and righteousness and we hear stories of times when God does intervene in the natural order and save His people.
John the Baptist is the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah 40:3 “A voice cries out: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.’”
John the Baptist is described so as to resemble the Old Testament prophets. In 2 Kings 1:8 the prophet Elijah is described as “A hairy man, with a leather belt around his waist.”
Malachi 3:1 says that the Lord will send a messenger to prepare for his coming and Malachi 4:5 says that the Lord will send the prophet Elijah before his coming. Matthew says that John is that messenger, that Elijah has come to prepare the way for the Messiah, that the kingdom of God is near.
Jerusalem is the center of society where people come to buy and sell and to worship and sacrifice to God in the temple. John’s ministry is out in the wilderness far away from the city and the center of things and yet many people come to hear John preach and to be baptized in the river Jordan, even many Pharisees and Sadducees came out to be baptized with the water for repentance.
Just as the author of the Gospel of Matthew looked back in the Old Testament to explain the events in his time, we too can look back to see predictors of our time. We already know the story of the divine coming down and touching humanity in Jesus Christ. We know the stories of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem, the stories of Jesus’ ministry, his preaching and teaching. We cannot tell the stories of Jesus’ birth without remembering the stories of Jesus’ arrest, crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection.
We have cherished family traditions. My family has Christmas traditions of midnight mass, Christmas stockings, opening each present one by one and Christmas dinner with mincemeat pies, fruit cake and steamed carrot pudding. We remember those who are no longer with us and welcome the new spouses and new children that join our family.
So what is it that we are waiting for, what is it we are longing for, what are we preparing for?
What if we are the modern day John the Baptists preparing the way for the coming of the Lord! We know Jesus’ vision of the Kingdom of God where there is no hunger or thirst, where all have shelter and clothing, where there is justice for all including the poor, the lonely, the stranger and the outcasts, where all love and are loved by God and humanity. Matthew’s gospel ends with the great commission, “And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’” (Mt 28:18-20)
As we begin a new church year and as we begin a new three year cycle of telling God’s story, we are reminded that we are part of this story, that it is our story too. Just as John was the messenger sent to proclaim the coming of the Lord, we too are sent to share the Good News of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of Heaven, with the hope that others will turn their lives away from personal desires and turn towards God who promises to be a fair and just king where there is peace and harmony where justice and righteousness rule. Amen.