Advent 2B (12/4/2011)

the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:“Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,”

Lessons: Isaiah 40:1-11 Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13 2 Peter 3:8-15a Saint Mark 1:1-8

Prayer of the Day: Stir up our hearts, Lord God, to prepare the way of your only Son. By his coming strengthen us to serve you with purified lives; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

8.1 The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 2 As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; 3 the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,’ ” 4 John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6 Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.7 He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. 8 I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

St. Mark 1:1-8, New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

There has been a lot of “getting ready” in my life lately. Thirteen weeks ago I was getting ready to begin a three-month Sabbatical leave. Five weeks ago I was getting ready to vacation with my family on Maui. Four weeks ago I was getting ready to begin a (for me) major construction project in my basement. Three weeks ago I was getting ready to spend a weekend in my hometown (Stillwater, Minnesota). One week ago I was getting ready to bring my Sabbatical to a close and return to my regular duties as Saint Peter’s Pastor. In each case I had to put some serious effort into the preparations. There were: schedules to finalize, travel plans to make, people to notify, supplies to purchase, bags to pack, ... I wanted these experiences to be rich ones — worthwhile ones for my family and for me. When something is important to us, we put the effort into getting ready. We do whatever needs to be done in order to make it come out right.

Now we enter into the season of Advent — the season of getting ready. The voice of John the Baptizer calls to us from the pages of St. Mark’s Gospel, instructing us to get ready. Prepare his way. Give him as straight of a path as possible into your hearts and your lives. Get ready!

Responding to John’s voice, we begin to get ready. We carve out some extra time each day for devotions in our homes. We heighten our attention to daily prayer. We commit to gathering with God’s people every Sunday for worship, and many of us are able to do so in the middle of the week as well. We grant ourselves permission to say “no” to some of the holiday chaos, in order to spend quiet time with God. We sing hymns of longing and waiting.

Most of all, getting ready for this One who is coming means that we join our hearts with John’s audience and ask for God’s forgiveness. That, after all, is what lies at the heart of John’s ministry. His baptism (unlike our baptism “into the death and resurrection” of Jesus Christ — see Romans 6:1-4) is a “baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” This is how John got people ready for Jesus. This is how John prepared them to receive the Christ. He convinced them of their sins. He led them into the waters of the Jordan. He symbolically put to death their old lives. And then he filled them with hope about the One who would come to make all things new.

This is the getting ready that the season of Advent commends to us each year. We too are invited to put to death the pain and brokenness of our lives. We too are invited to confess our sins, and make room for God’s new beginning among us. We too are invited to ask: When is it that our actions (or inactions) have harmed a brother or sister? When is it that our lives have not made a witness to the grace and power of God? When is it that we have fallen short on the ministries and responsibilities God has entrusted to us?

Christmas is coming soon. Are you getting ready? During this season, as our gifts are purchased, and as our homes are trimmed, John calls us to make our hearts ready as well. Hear the voice of God’s messenger. The Christ is coming. Let’s get ready!


David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What was at the heart of John’s invitation for people to get ready for Jesus?
  2. How did his baptismal ritual provide a visual image of what he was trying to accomplish?
  3. Why was confession of sin so central to what John did?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. How do we make ready for Christmas in my household?
  2. How might John the Baptizer help this be an even richer, more meaningful month for me?
  3. What sinfulness do I need to offer up to God?