The old theologians had famously said, “lex orandi, lex credenda,” that is, the law of what is to be prayed is the law of what is to be believed. Or you might have heard it said, “If you show me how someone prays, how they worship, I can tell you what they believe.” At the very least it is an assertion there is a definite connection between how a fellowship worships and what they believe.
One of the greatest privileges I am given as a pastor is to be able to baptize a brother or sister in Christ. To be the one called to speak those simple words and pour the water over their head is a profound joy for me. These days everyone has their own ideas of what a wedding ought to look like and what sort of things you need to do to make it special, it is rare to even have a wedding in the church these days and normally some romantic setting designed for the perfect photo sessions.
Most of you have heard the story of how I cane to be a pastor. It was not my childhood dream or a sense of duty or something like that. It happened slowly and with great resistance on my part. It came through a growing love for theology and a deep desire to know more. The central question I sought answers for was the fundamental inquiry which has long been at the heart of Christian theology. It is, quite simply, “What must I do to be saved?”
So, it is over. The big day has finally come and gone. All the preparation, all the work, all the decorations and festivities have been exhausted. What are we left with? An overflowing trash heap with empty amazon boxes and the remnants of wrapping paper. We have the memories, of course, memories of the kids unwrapping the presents and the smiles and the fun of sitting around in our PJ’s and just spending some time with the family. We have eaten more than our share of deserts and Christmas goodies.
Can you believe that we are just a few short days away from the celebration of Christmas? For children this is a time of incredible anticipation and excitement. I can still remember those final days, when your mind raced with the possibilities of what might be wrapped up under the tree, or what Santa would bring in the stocking hung by the chimney with care. Would it be what you had hoped for, what you left notes and hints about? Only time would tell, and the excitement was part of the joy, part of the magic and wonder accompanying this special time of the year. There is so much about Christmas to celebrate and rejoice in.
Last Sunday we talked about the arrival of John the Baptist. This is the great forerunner of Jesus, the famous voice crying out in the wilderness. He shows up baptizing the people of God as they repent of their sins and renew their longing for the arrival of the long-awaited Messiah. And as we find out in our text today, John is the fulfillment of the prophecy concerning Elijah the prophet.
During the season of Advent, he always makes his appearance. We wait with bated breath as the readings of the church year turn our focus from the promised end of all things and the coming of the new heavens and new earth to the voice of John the Baptist. His voice, though, is not sweet and calming. It does not fit with the joyful theme of this time of year. There is no peace on earth and goodwill toward men. No, John is like a bull in a China shop. He shakes things up with an urgent call for repentance. “Repent,” he says, “for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”