Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.
So, here we are, the second week of Advent. We are still waiting. We are waiting for Christmas Day to arrive and the reminder of Christ that was born into this world to walk among us, both fully human and fully divine.
In the midst of this waiting we find ourselves making preparations. We are good at preparing for things. We prepare ourselves for the first day of school. We prepare ourselves to go on vacation and make arrangement for things to be taken care of when we are not home. This season we are preparing for Christmas and all of the joy that it may bring. May of our local communities have had their parades and tree lightings and we are starting to hear of gatherings to celebrate this time of year. We are in the midst of holiday concerts, like the community choir concert and the upcoming concerts at our local schools. At times it is easy to say that we are caught up in the busyness of the season. We can get ourselves so wrapped up in the preparations at times that we can forget the most basic things in life.
In the midst of this Advent season we still have terror and violence residing within our world. This past week we have been shocked by to more mass shootings in Savanah, Georgia and San Bernardino, California. We wonder when it is going to end and if we can have a voice in anyway that may make a difference. Yet we still are waiting and in the meantime we find ourselves in preparation.
Luke, being one of the most scholarly Gospel authors, presents us this morning with a lesson with history as its basis. H e adds historical reference to his Gospel so that we may be able to locate the time of the gospel story he writes. Perhaps, her is preparing for the future readers of his Gospel and providing a basis for us to place the happenings in a historical context. Luke’s lesson this morning speaks of John the Baptist preparing the way for Jesus. This is after the birth narrative and both John and Jesus are grown men. Jesus is about to begin his ministry.
What a fitting inclusion in our Advent lessons though. The preparations take place for Jesus to come into this world as we await the story of Mary and Joseph searching for a place to stay. We are all in the midst of preparation.
In the midst of John’s preparation we are fully aware of his backstory. We know that he is the son of Elizabeth and Zechariah. We know that before his birth that he was already set apart to be a prophet, as the Song of Zechariah informs us in Luke chapter 1. We know that he is to go before the Lord and Prepare the way.
It is very possible though that the majority of people in Israel have no idea of what is going on. This strange guy, named John, comes out of the wilderness to speak of a Messiah that is supposedly on the way. Who is to say that he is just another one of these false prophets, a street corner preacher, speaking nonsense. He most likely is ridiculed and disregarded by many, but also is starting to gain a gathering and his own disciples as well.
Things have changed today. Christianity is now established as the largest religion in the world. We have thousands of denominations and even more leaders within those denominations that all have their own theologies and beliefs. The church, much like John, is not taken seriously all of the time either. The church is not fully respected and is at times disregarded by those that are not a part of the church. Often times we cause this ourselves. We argue with one another about who is right and wrong while forgetting some of the most basic teachings of Jesus.
In the midst of this though God is at work. As we make our preparations, God is at work. And the amazing thing is that God is at work in the least likely of people. God was at work in John the Baptist, this strange guy that wanders out of the desert proclaiming a message of repentance and baptism. John could have possibly been laughed out of the towns that he went into preaching, yet God was present with him. In the strength that he gathered from God, he continued on his journey, in his calling to prepare the way.
God regularly chooses people whom the world sees as insignificant though whom do marvelous things. Mother Theresa reached out to the poor and the needy and touched many people through her simple acts of kindness throughout the world. Martin Luther King, Jr. led a movement that would change the direction of race relations in this country. Malala Yousefsai was shot in the face to be silenced, but now is a Nobel Peace Prize winner advocating for the education of young girls. The ELCA’s Nadia Bolz-Weber, tattoos and all, is not your first thought as you think of an ELCA pastor. But she has influenced many people and just published her own book, titled Accidental Saints, naming those that God is working in and through.
These are just a few people whom God is working through that may at first glance surprise us. In this Advent season I am sure we can think of hundreds, if not thousands of more people of faith to give thanks for and are preparing the way.
We do not have to be anything special to proclaim God’s Word. We do not need to be on a Who’s Who list of Christian leaders. God is calling us into action and preparation using the gifts and talents that we already have. Those gifts that God has given us. We may see God at work in all aspects our lives; our jobs, family, and civic life. God is working through people all around us in the least likely of ways.
So, this Advent, as we are waiting, I encourage you to look around. Where this past week have you seen an activity in which God was using someone or a group of people to help care for the world in the midst of its brokenness?
As we continue on in John’s ministry to prepare the way, part of it is to see God at work in our midst. Yes, there are horrible things that are happening around the world and even in our own country. I am positive though that we can witness God in many more things then things where evil reigns.
We are chosen by God to do wonderful things. Each of us this Advent Season can do marvelous acts of love for our neighbors and brothers and sisters. May we share the gifts of Grace from God that are freely given to us. In Advent, we may wait, but it is in the hope and promise of the cross that we are made free.