We are about to enter the seasons of Advent and Christmas. In fact, before the next January Herald reaches your home, we will be in the midst of the Christmas season, meaning the celebration of Christmas Day will have already occurred. We will have attended to all the Advent and Christmas preparations, i.e., lighting the Advent wreath, decorating the Chrismon tree, singing all our favorite Christmas carols, giving and receiving gifts, and celebrating the birth of Jesus, who is Emmanuel – ‘God with us.’ For many of us this is one of our favorite times of the year and for some of us, it is our favorite time of the year. There is a certain spirit in the air this time of year. A spirit that encourages us to be kind and thoughtful to our neighbors. A spirit that challenges us to be present in worship and hear the love of God for His creation literally come to life. A spirit that leads us in the giving of thanksgiving and praise to God for the gift of a Savior. And – the realization that God can do anything!
In observing the Christmas season and holiday, we often gloss over a single verse that comes to us at the beginning of Advent from the Gospel of Mark. As we know, Mark’s Gospel has no Christmas narrative, no infancy story, no shepherds or wise men. The Gospel according to Saint Mark begins with the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist. But as introduction to that baptism, John the Baptist’s purpose is revealed in Chapter 1, vss 2-3: As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, “Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, who shall prepare thy way; the voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight-” This isn’t the Christmas story as we recall it and perhaps not even as we practice it. But as I’m thinking about Advent and Christmas, this is perhaps the challenge the scriptures place before us as we enter the season before, and the season of, Christmas. Become the voice of one crying in the wilderness.
John the Baptist was the forerunner for Jesus. His purpose was as much to announce the Lord’s coming as it was to do or be anything. Time after time he points to Jesus as the one who is coming and the one who was sent. John calls others and points them to Christ. John was the one Isaiah refers to in the words “I send my messenger.” As I think about the days before us, and the worship we shall offer, I can’t help but think that we too, even today or especially today, are also intended to be voices in a modern day wilderness calling people to “prepare the way of the Lord and make his paths straight.” Certainly we are called to do that everyday, and especially at this time of the year when God’s Spirit hovers above the earth celebrating with us the birth of our Savior.
There are so many people who live on the fringe of Christian faith or outside the faith that are waiting for and in need of a messenger to tell them of God’s gift of a Savior. So many people are waiting to be invited to experience the power and joy of meeting the babe born in a manger to set them free from the bondage to sin and death. So many people, both inside and outside the church, who are hopeful that this year might be the year when their life changes. And what they need is a messenger to bring them the message of Christmas that “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” This is the message everyone needs to hear, but we need messengers.
God, through the scriptures and the Holy Spirit, challenges us to be those messengers of the Good News to all the world, even into the wilderness. Will you be a messenger this year? Will you invite someone to come and hear the Good News? Will you help make straight the paths of the Lord? Invite someone to experience Advent and Christmas at St. John’s. Invite someone and everyone to “Come home for Christmas.”
Pastor Butler +