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An homily for Advent 2 – John The Baptist

Here is a little offering on the theme of the wild man John The Baptist. We are now in Year A lectionary readings and the theme for December 5th is John  The Baptist. The gospel reading is Matthew 3 v 1-12.

John The Baptist by Caravaggio ( disputed)  c 1598

 

He was a rare man. He was an unusual man. His life was dedicated to God out there in the desert sands and all alone. What else was there to do in the desert? There were no games to play, no people to talk to, no scrolls to read. What else was there to do in the desert, night after night, day after day, except to talk to God, to be immersed in the reality of God.

Then strangely, they started to come, first hundreds and then thousands – people coming to hear him preach. Walking miles out of their cities, out into the wilderness, to listen to the desert prophet. They didn’t come to meet up with old friends they hadn’t seen for a week or because the music was good and the choir sang well. They didn’t come because of an old childhood habit of synagogue worship on Friday nights. No, they left their cities and walked into the desert because they wanted to see a rare phenomenon. They wanted to see and hear a man whose life they had heard was totally immersed in God, whose soul had not been corrupted by the pollution and greed of city life.

They came because they  to hear the authentic word from the Lord God for their lives in their time. They sensed that in this man was the pure presence of God. These people from the city wanted to find what he had discovered in the desert – and what they couldn’t find in their own lives. So, they came looking for an authentic godly life.

What was the message they heard? The message of John The Baptist as he taught in the desert was essentially two things – prepare and repent.

Prepare for the coming of Gods Messiah, Christ himself. Prepare for the coming of your King. Be washed, be cleansed, become pure in heart, in your imagination, in your mind. May these be washed clean, so Christ can come into you and live. Repent, turn around, change your life. This was the message they found – get ready!

As a  dramatic  sign of  the inner change that John was pleading for, he offered the outward sign of baptism, plunging a person desirous of a new life into the deep waters of  the River Jordan.

There is a Rock opera called Godspell in which John The Baptist features strongly. There is a scene which goes something like this:

At the back of the stage are 8 or 9 players and each actor comes to the front of the stage and starts to sing. For a fraction of time he or she sings about their particular ideology – whether it be the philosophy of Plato, Socrates, communism or capitalism. Each actor, for a moment, sings from centre stage their theme song of life. And then they are all singing together in a chorus of confusion.

The audience realize they are watching a profound parable. The singers are singing out their ideologies, their beliefs in a cacophony of confusion and nobody can make sense of any of it. No-one knew which philosophy of life to listen to.

Then the sound of a ram’s horn breaks in – followed by silence. John the Baptist enters, singing and calling his world to be washed clean so the Messiah could enter. He walks down the aisle with a pail of water, splashing the people around him, and breaks out into song:

“Prepare Ye The Way of  The Lord”

Today, Advent 2, we focus on John The Baptist. In doing so an invitation is given to you and me to prepare once again for the coming of Christ. To go into the desert to be cleansed – our hearts, minds and thoughts.

But where is this desert that we are asked to journey into? What can we make of the imagery of the desert on this second Sunday in Advent with just three weeks to go until Christmas?

If we think of the earliest history of Israel we remember how the Jewish people had been slaves in Egypt. In some ways the Israelites had come to love the sophisticated city life, the food, the technology of Egypt, the relative comfort they enjoyed even though they were slaves. They resisted going out into the wilderness.

But God led the Israelites into the desert as God often leads people into a desert of some kind in order to grow. To renew souls, to purify spirits, to cleanse attitudes and outlooks. God often leads people out into a desert to prepare them for a new land of experience of mission, for a new life.

Today, the Word of The lord is clear. God says to you and me:

Go into the wilderness and become clean – your mind, your imagination, your heart, your actions, your habits. Jesus went into the desert where he was baptised and then spent forty days and nights preparing for his mission, for a new life, for a new ministry in the city of mankind.

So, we ask, “ Where is this desert we are thinking about? It doesn’t  sound very enticing at all.

But, the wilderness is where God is. The wilderness is any place where a person becomes absorbed in the powerful presence of God. The wilderness is where anyone is alone, really alone with the ultimate issues of life, death and eternity. The wilderness might be found in sitting with the bible, it might be found in a thin wafer and sip of wine. The wilderness is in prayer and a still small voice. It might be in a hospital in the heart of the  night. It might be out in nature when the snow hushes a busy world  and there is nothing to do but look and still the mind. The wilderness is where God is, and where God can cleanse our frazzled minds and hearts and habits and anything else that jars with the rhythm of Gods love.

The wilderness is silence and quiet. It is often the elimination of every day sounds and voices. The stopping of the racing tape of my own mind. It is quiet and stillness. It is being alone with God – for a minute, absolutely still. God speaks in the wilderness of the silence. The city is an image for our noisy, distracted, crowed  lives. The wilderness is silence and God speaks to us in that silence.

In the wilderness, we might just hear God’s voice “ Be washed. Be cleansed of past hurts and anger. Be cleansed of whatever is hurting your life and the lives of others. Whatever is holding you back from trusting and being free from fear”

May each of us in these advent days find time to enter, if only for a few moments each day, into our own personal wilderness, to be cleansed and healed and to prepare ourselves to meet anew the light of the world, Jesus our Lord, this Christmas.

 

Prayer:

Walk softly as you go through Christmas

That each step may bring you nearer to the manger bed.

Talk quietly as you speak of Christmas that you shall not drown out the song of the angels.

Knell reverently as you pause for Christmas. That you may feel again the spirit of the Nativity, rekindled in your soul.

Rise eagerly, after you have trod the Christmas path, that you may serve more fully, the one whose birth we hail. Amen

December 4, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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