12/9/2018 Second Sunday of Advent The text is Luke 3:1-6.
Grace and peace to you from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
There was once a parable told of a farmer who owned an old mule. The mule fell into the farmer’s well. The farmer heard the mule braying and went to the site. After assessing the situation, the farmer sympathized with the mule but decided that neither the mule nor the well was worth the trouble of saving. Instead he called his neighbors and asked them to bring their shovels and bury the poor mule and put him out of his misery.
The mule seemed hysterical. When the dirt struck his back, he shook it off. As the farmer and his friends continued to shovel a thought struck the farmer. After each shovel of dirt was thrown onto the mule he said, “Shake it off and step up.” The mule did what he asked, after every shovel of dirt. After a time, the old mule stepped triumphantly out of the well. What seemed to bury him actually became his road to freedom.
Why am I telling you this parable on this second Sunday of Advent – a Sunday in which John the Baptist takes center stage? I am sharing it in the hope of helping you prepare for the coming of Christ. “Our task is not to work miracles, that is up to God. Our responsibility is to prepare the way, committing every ounce of energy we have to the possibility of the transforming power of God, remembering that a single act of kindness can bring hope to generations yet to come.” (Keith Wagner, Possibilities Unlimited)
In many ways, that is what Advent is all about. It is a time to prepare ourselves for the transforming power of God in our lives and in our world and through our acts of kindness in the name of Christ. For with God, all things are possible.
John the Baptist was surely aware of this as he preached in the wilderness and baptized people with the hope and expectation of repentance…that is turning their hearts and eyes and hopes back to God. In their world the good times were history and it was easy for them to feel abandoned and hopeless. They needed to get shaken off their pity chairs in order to turn their attention to the source of life and salvation.
So John preached. And John baptized. John used the words of the Prophet Isaiah to stir things up. John pointed those who would listen back to their God who had good things planned for them. And he told them to prepare – prepare the way of the Lord.
Today, those words ring in our ears for we need to hear them as much as the people of old. For we, like the people of old, are so caught up in our daily lives that we seldom take time to focus our hearts of God.
As Billy Graham once said: “We’re suffering from only one disease in the world. Our basic problem is not a race problem. Our basic problem is not a poverty problem. Our basic problem is not a war problem. Our basic problem is a heart problem. We need to get the heart changed, the heart transformed.” We need to remember God and prepare ourselves for the blessings God gives us in Jesus Christ.
Until we do that there will always be mountains that need to come down – mountains like racism, sexism, ageism, and any other “-ism” that blocks our way to healthy relationships with one another and with our Lord. There will always be valleys of depression, despair, loneliness, grief, and pain to be filled. There will be crooked places of abuse, neglect, immorality, and violence that need to be straightened and rough places of oppression and injustice that need to be smoothed. None of this will change until there is a change in heart, a change in vision, a change in direction – change that begins one person at a time until the world is transformed.
So John the Baptist’s words ring in our ears and call for change. For, as a people, we haven’t changed much. The world around us has changed technologically around us, but we haven’t changed. We have grown older, but wisdom has not transformed our lives. We have experienced much, seen even more, and have failed to keep God in the center.
So, when things are going well, we pat ourselves on our backs and gloat in our ingenuity and fortitude. We things are going badly, we cast blame on others and on circumstances out of our control. We grieve our losses and forget the blessings. And our lives become skewed and out-of-balance as we wander in the wilderness of our own life time.
What a shame…for this does not have to be so. Change is not a dirty word. It can be a word of life if that change involves returning focus on God and preparing the way of the Lord. It’s amazing what it can do for a person, for a community, for a broken and despairing world.
So keep Christ in Christmas this year and always. Remember what you are preparing to receive on Christmas…the greatest gift that God can give – and let our hearts and lives be transformed by the One who forgives and makes all things possible.
Have a blessed Advent my friends, and may the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.