The Sunday Sermon: Advent 2 “A Voice Cries in the Wilderness (of our Souls)”
Let us Pray. “Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.”
+May I speak to you in the name of God, who is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
This prayer which we just made, the same prayer which we opened our worship with this morning, directs our hearts and minds to the prophets. More importantly, it points us to their message – their warnings to forsake sin and to repent.
This is the very message that we hear in the Gospel this morning from John the Baptist.
John occupies a very special place in history. You see, for hundreds of years God hadn’t sent a prophet to his people. And that’s a significant break in time. As you read the Old Testament, you’ll find that almost 1/3 of the books there are the books of the prophets, with their warnings and foretellings that were coming to God’s people.
So when John begins his ministry on the Banks of the Jordan River, he signals the opening of a new epoch in the history of relationship between God and Man. He really is, you might say, a voice crying in the wilderness. The wilderness of years which were deserted of God’s voice calling out to his people.
And that crying out – that voice comes to you and to me with one simple, yet eternally important message: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” And this lord who is coming, John tells us, is one who is more powerful, one whom even he, the messenger of God is not worthy to serve in the lowest of capacities, and one who will wash us, purify us, cleanse us, and make us anew, with the Holy Spirit.
When John took up the task of delivering his message, he went out into the desert. And he calls you and I into that same desert, that same wasteland. But that wasteland which his voice cries out from, even today, is not a geographic place.
Rather, that wasteland where we hear that voice crying out “Prepare the way of the Lord” is the Desert of our own Souls. It is there, in our souls that John wants you and I to prepare a road for God to travel down, a pathway to enter in.
Now, what do we do when we’re expecting a houseguest? We do the mad dash to clean, and dust, and re-arrange the furniture – We clean our homes, and make them presentable for our guests.
But God’s message to us through John isn’t that he wants us to make everything sparkling clean for his arrival at our door. No – God’s message is that he wants us to open the door to him when he knocks.
John’s message, at the beginning of the new epoch of God’s relationship with humanity, is simply for us to open the door and allow him to come in.
God wants to come in – not to perfectly presentable houses – not to our souls sparkling clean and spotless – but to a house which is a mess, a soul which is a desert wasteland – so that he can make them lush and green with the water of life. God wants to come in and cleanse our souls – to cleanse our hearts, to purify them with his Holy Spirit.
You see, the real problem is, that we spend too much time thinking we can clean the house our own. The problem is that our cleaning jobs, what we might call our own attempts to clean up the messes of our lives, don’t measure up to the white glove test that God puts us through.
Only he can cleanse us, only he can purify us, only by his grace can our messes be cleaned up, and our souls be made clean.
John’s call is for us to spend time listening for God’s knocking – and to invite him in. And the way which we invite him into our lives in a real and meaningful way is through prayer, and study, through silence, and worshipful praise and thanksgiving.
But perhaps most importantly, the way we open the door, the way we prepare that highway for our God in the desert, the way we respond to that cry of John, is through repentance.
By repentance, we mean the turning from the mess making we get ourselves into by things like unwarranted anger, jealousy, lust, arrogance, and intemperance.
Repentance, perhaps most importantly, means that we recognize the mess we’ve made of things, and the need for someone more powerful than ourselves to come in and make things right.
That’s why John the Baptist is found at the opening of the Gospel – he reminds us of our need of a savior.
And that’s why he plays such a prominent role in Advent – as we prepare for Christmas and also for the Second Coming of Christ in Glory. He tells us, “open the door, and the King of Glory shall come in.”
+ In the name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.