Sermon by The Rev. Kathleen A. McAdams
St John’s Episcopal Church, Franklin, Massachusetts
The Second Sunday of Advent – December 9, 2018
Malachi 3:1-4, Philippians 1:3-11, Luke 3:1-6
My father always taught me that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. If you’re waiting for the Messiah, and you need Him to get here really quick, as the early Christians did, it’s best to see that the path between you and Him is perfectly straight. John the Baptist calls the people of his day to repentance, as a way of shortening that distance between them and Jesus, and thereby assuring cancellation of their debt and release from slavery - their salvation. But let’s unpack that a bit.
As we await the advent of Emmanuel – God among us - this Gospel also calls us to repent, to turn from one thing to another, to change our ways, to become something new. In this season when we are tempted toward overdoing – over buying, over consuming, over working ourselves – perhaps repentance means simply turning our attention toward God, toward the true meaning of this season, and making room in our lives for a baby, a helpless infant in need of care, making room for a family seeking shelter from the cold, making room for our Savior. Whatever that means for each of us, we leave behind our old ways, the ways that led us down circuitous roads, further and further from God. On this new path toward Jesus - this “way of the Lord”, this Way of Love of which our Presiding Bishop speaks - we find forgiveness; we find salvation. We prepare this way, not only for ourselves, but for everyone – so that “all flesh may see the salvation of God.” We are called to prepare the way for others, to be a prophet as John was, and to call others to repentance, to lead them on the shortest path to God.
I won’t expound too much on the continuation of this Gospel, of John’s specific instructions about how to smooth over those rough spots between us and Jesus. You’ll have to come back next week to find out what it says (since Advent is all about waiting). But suffice to say, John’s instructions are about sharing what you have with others.
As I told the children last week, good things are worth waiting for. Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, our Savior, the greatest gift God could ever give us. We wait for this gift with joyful anticipation. And, of course we want to rush to receive it, but just as Mary had to wait patiently for his birth, so do we. We wait with Mary during Advent. Advent is a time of pregnancy and hope. What might this new child mean for the world? What might we learn about vulnerability from a God who comes into the world helpless and naked? What is the promise that this birth holds? What does it mean that God has taken human form and come to live among us? How should we prepare? Advent is a time of preparation; not only of our homes, but of our hearts. How can we make room for a Savior? What has to shift around to make that room? How might we start anew this year?
And even to the adults I’ll say, it’s OK to be excited about all the festivities – the parties, the concerts, the presents. But let’s just remember what and who we are really celebrating. Let’s stay focused on Jesus,… pause,… breathe….and continue our preparations.