Second Sunday of Advent 2018
by The Reverend Jeffrey C. Johnson
Gospel: Luke 3:1-6 1
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, 2 during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3 He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, 4 as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. 5 Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; 6 and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.
Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Prepare ye the way of the Lord. For many of us this time of year means getting ready for one thing: Christmas. Preparing the house, preparing the food, preparing the tree, making the Gloog. And in the next two weeks here: preparing for Lucia and Christmas pageants.
But preparing for Jesus’ birth is an entirely different matter. In this chapter of Luke we first get a history lesson with a basic rundown of who was in power from Tiberius to Pontius Pilate. We get a human account and human history about Roman Empire leadership that immediately shifts from governmental leadership to this crazy-man preacher in the desert outside Jerusalem.
Please notice the disparity of this from one extreme to another. Obviously, Tiberius, Pontius Pilate, and even Herod are not getting ready for Jesus. But certainly John the Baptist and we are getting ready. And that’s why we’re here. Not only for eggnog, not only for presents, not only for pageants, but also to get ready for the Christ child. John preaches baptism but with that baptism is repentance and as I have said before, repentance is from the Greek word, metanoia. Metanoia means to turn around or to reorient one’s self.
Repentance doesn’t mean, “I’m sorry.” It means let’s push the restart the button. And that’s what Advent brings us…a time to reevaluate our relationship with God, Jesus, and each other.
Strangely enough the Jesus and John the Baptist story begins not in a palace, but this story begins in the desert outside Jerusalem. The desert is a strange place. How many have you ever been to the desert? It is full of different creatures, different plant life, and it certainly looks different than New England where one can frequently stop at a woods on a snowy evening.
The desert-wilderness of John the Baptist is not only a place, but also perhaps a way of being…an idea, a place where mysterious, and mystical things happen. And this begs the question…where are the deserts in our lives where God shows up and forces us to pay attention, to reorient, to metanoia??
My shadowy desert-wilderness times tend to be in distraction. The distraction of my administrative work, the distraction of worry, even the distraction of money and finance. At times, this is my desert place. On the other hand, if my desert place is anything like John the Baptist’s desert, my desert can also be found in the silence of God in worship, the presence of God in relationship, and most importantly, letting God be present to me.
I allow God to be present to me so I can make room in my heart for him to come in. It’s so easy to provide hurdles to our heart preventing God from coming in. Whereas we have an opportunity this Advent to allow God to come into our hearts here in worship and relationship. Relationship with each other and with that God who still loves us deeply and madly.
So as we madly rush to wrap presents, plan dinner parties, a God with tender compassion is trying to get into our hearts. Let’s let him in. AMEN.