The Pas Advent 2
10 December 2017
Psalm 85:1-2,8-13 pg 818
2 Peter 3:8-15a
God of timeless grace, you fill us with joyful expectation. Make us ready for the message that prepares the way, so that with uprightness of heart and holy joy we may eagerly await the coming of Christ, who reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen.
Today, in our Old Testament lesson, we see the prophet Isaiah calling us to look for the “3 voice of one calling: “In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord;” (Isa 40.3a)
And Mark, in today’s gospel, mirrors this prophecy pointing us to John the Baptist as the fulfillment of Isaiah’s words, as he points the way to the coming Messiah, Jesus, the Christ.
The gospel goes on to describe John’s ministry approach, as well as John himself, as “the one calling in the wilderness.” (Mk 1.3a)
And knowing how Mark uses Isaiah’s prophesy to show that Jesus is the Christ, is the Messiah, and knowing that that particular prophesy has been fulfilled in John’s day, can it be fulfilled again?
Today, we are looking for the 2nd coming of the Christ, when he will come again in his glory, as we’re told in Acts 1. “7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But… you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:7-11)
So, I wonder how, or even if, we, today, proclaim the love of God? Proclaim the promises of Isaiah that one will come and call for each one of us, who believes to “‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’” (Mk1.3b)
After all, this was John’s calling, as a Nazarene, as one dedicated to the service of God since his birth, who has been called, from the depths of the wilderness, to be the one calling in the wilderness, to be the herald of the Messiah, the Christ in the world, and he did this with Isaiah’s words, fulfilling Isaiah’s prophesy.
So, this led me to wonder how often, and in what ways, we, the followers of Christ, the children of God, today, reach out and invite people to join us, to become children of God, and followers of Christ at our sides?
Now, I admit this isn’t an easy question to contemplate. And many would ignore it, shove it to one side, or foist it off to the Rector as part of “Duties to be Named.” But looking at it, it is supposed to be an uncomfortable question.
It is supposed to be a question that can make us squirm in our seats as we look at the challenge that Isaiah puts out there the “voice of one calling: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.’” (Isa 40:3)
At the same time, this doesn’t mean that we leave it to the city ministries to do this because they are better funded and better equipped; surrounded as they are by more humanity than wilderness, by more concrete jungle than by actual God-made creation. After all, those in such urban environments see anything outside of their boundaries as ‘wilderness.’
Yet, here we are, surrounded by God’s creation, and more often than naught we’re willing to point to an even more isolated location as ‘the wilderness’ from which we would perceive Isaiah’s prophesy is to be fulfilled. Isaiah’s words make us uncomfortable, if we contemplate that he could be talking about you and me.
Or, perhaps its that we don’t share John’s fashion sense. “6 John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.” (Mk 1:6)
After all, camel’s hair in the northern Manitoba winter is quite chilly, I’m sure. And the availability of locusts and wild honey, throughout most of the year is not only a highly specialized diet, but here it’s quite expensive to fulfill.
But that’s not the point that Isaiah is trying to make. It might not have been John, in the original fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophesy, but John is the one whom God called from meditation and obscurity to proclaim the coming of the Messiah.
“4 And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. 7 And this was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” (Mk 1.4-5, 7-8)
Yet, the Christ that John heralds has come. He has given his life to teach us to love God as we are loved. He has died to relieve the burden of sin and error that separates us from God, directly, and he has ascended into heaven to make room for the Holy Spirit to come amongst us, and to continue “to guide us in right pathways for his names sake” (Ps 23:3b)
The first chapter of Acts tells us that this is not the only interaction that the Son of God, the Messiah, the Christ has with humanity, with the world that God has created. And so, we wait.
We, with the rest of Christianity look for the coming in glory that the angels spoke of on that hilltop so many generations ago.
And we’ve done that. We continue to be faithful to the promises of our baptisms, we continue to be faithful to the traditions that have grown up since Acts 1, and that have guided us in our Christian faith, yet we wait.
We anticipate the coming of Christ, amongst us, in his Glory. We look for it in the days, weeks, and years of our lives, and with those who have come before and those who will come after, we look for it with hope, and with joy.
At the same time, like a hamster on a wheel, we acknowledge that we do the same things over and over again. That each time we do them we look for the fulfillment of God’s will, yet, the time when Christianity was the ‘in thing’ in society is behind us, and we need to, once more, share our faith with the world. We need to once more, turn to the words if Isaiah’s prophesy and to fulfill what is written there.
Isaiah tells us: 3 A voice of one calling: “In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4 Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. 5 And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together.” (Isa 30:3-5a)
And perhaps, because Isiah says, “a voice” we feel that only one is needed in a generation.
Perhaps we feel unequal to the task of sharing our faith, our journey in Christ with the world around us.
After all, for each of us, it’s a lifelong journey beginning in our baptism, shaped by the patterns of worship, and growth, of study and of faith. Lived not just within these walls, but in every action in every word uttered out in the world around us.
Yet, what is perhaps ‘humdrum’ to us, what we see as ‘run of the mill’ activity, may reveal to someone who is struggling where the love of God, the word of Christ, has guided us, and that may be what they need to hear, to desire to share in that experience in their own lives, to join us as children of God, as followers of Christ.
And yes, this takes courage.
It takes courage for the Samaritan to stop and help the man beaten and left for dead on the side of the road. (Lk 10:25-37)
It takes courage for the woman who hemorrhaged for twelve years to reach out and touch Jesus robe, believing that such an action will heal her. (Mk 5:25-34)
It takes courage for Jairus, the synagogue leader, to believe that Jesus is able to save his daughter from death. (Mk 5:21-43)
It takes courage for Saul to turn his back on persecuting Christians and become the Apostle to the Gentiles, providing us, along the way, with Paul’s advice, Paul’s teachings on what it means to step out of the comfortable that we’ve known, to be able to use our experiences as witness of the struggles of our lives and the lives of the early Christians who wanted only to be recognized as followers of the Christ. (Acts 9 & ff)
The gospels and the epistles that follow are filled with such courage, such examples. Examples that we can emulate, today, as we minister to the world around us, as we show in action the faith of our hearts, as we share the experiences of our faith with those who yearn to hear, to take as their solace, as their rock on the journey of their faith, leading them to worship amongst us, leading them to stand at our side, not only here, but before the throne of God.
Isaiah’s words were written generations before John the Baptist appeared on the scene. Words that were recited with hope, with anticipation of the working of God in our lives, in the world.
And today, we’re once more in need of that sense of hope, of optimism that is so intangible to those who are perishing, who are without hope, without the love of God in and for their lives, our lives.
We are the ones who need to get up, get out, and proclaim the love of God for our lives, for the world around us, and for the lives of those who have not yet heard Christ’s saving message.
We are the ones who are the voice of one calling in the wilderness.
We are the ones who are calling out “9 You who bring good news to Zion, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good news to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, “Here is your God!” 10 See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power, and he rules with a mighty arm. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him. 11 He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” (Isa 40:9-11)
We are the ones who open the eyes of the blind to the promises of Christ, found in God’s love, as we await the coming of Jesus, in his Glory.