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.”
Advent is the season of arrival; the anticipation of the coming of God. We count down on the Advent Wreath each Sunday as we light another candle and move closer to Christmas, to the great arrival of God all those years ago in the little town of Bethlehem. We celebrate the fact that our God is not a God who stays far off, is only a dream or an empty promise. No, our God is a God who comes. He advents with His people. He arrives and His arrival changes things.
There is something wonderful about going home at the end of a day. To leave behind the world with its unpredictability, with its stresses and struggles, and return home, to the predictable, the familiar, the comfortable. It is a joyful thing. To kick off your shoes and relax in your favorite place to sit. To zone out in front of the TV or whatever screen of choice you like the best. It is something we often look forward to throughout the day. The comfort of your home is legendary, at least to you,