Sermon / Pr. Lucas A. Albrecht / Second Sunday in Advent / December 10th 2017 - / Mark 1:1-8 / To be prepared
Text: Mark 1:1-8 – 2nd Sunday in Advent
Theme: To be Prepared
Intr – To be alert, in many situations in our daily life, is something quite important. But to be prepared is even more.
Wait… is there a difference between to be alert and to be prepared? Yes, there is, but we are not always aware of it.
Think of a guard, for instance. One of his functions is to be alert all the time. Danger may be just around the corner and they need to be alert to spot it and to take the adequate measures about it. But here comes the other necessity: he needs to be prepared to do what it takes to fight danger back. If being alert would be sufficient, anyone of us could stand there in the security cabin all night long and keep our eyes on any possible danger or threat. But what would we do, since we are not prepared to deal with it?
There are situations in life that demand our attention. We need to be alert to detect them. Whether in the private or in the public life, to be alert helps us to spot possible threats and address them. But way beyond that we need to be prepared. We need to have resources and conditions to address them in the most appropriate way possible. We need to be prepared.
Especially when it comes to a very personal danger and threat around us: sin and death. Sometimes it may look like talking about sin, death, hope, faith, Heaven, things like that, they have to do with the pages of the Bible with the Sunday morning Service. From Monday to Saturday, those topics seem to have no relation with daily affairs.
But they do.
John the Baptist came to prepare the way for the Lord. How does he do that? By preparing us! Mark tells us that he came preaching repentance for the forgiveness of sins. He baptized for the remission of sins. He prepared the way for the Messiah by calling the people to be prepared.
John came to prepare the way of the Lord. How does that preparation happen? Repentance and faith.
Now, that looks pretty easy. No boot camp. No gym. No giving up food you like. No shoveling snow under minus 30. Just and simply repenting and placing faith in Him.
That’s when the difference of being alert and being prepared may shine brighter in our lives. We think we are prepared when may only in the “alert” mode, because we are used to routine. We are “liturgical” people. We go around our day, our week, our month trying to stick as much as possible to what we know, to be on the safe side. We repeat ourselves on a daily basis because that’s how we feel secure. Can you imagine if your house would every Monday be rearranged in a completely different way? Or if you needed to drive a different car every morning? This would exhaust us. So, in a way, we are always alert in our day because we follow the motions - which is not a bad thing per se, by the way. But as soon as something different, unexpected happens we are tested on how well prepared we are to deal with it. Or even worse, as soon as there is something very important that went idle under the dust of daily routine which then comes back to challenge us, that’s when preparation is at stake.
Thinking of this last one - important things that get covered in the dust of routine -, our routine behaviour may arrive to our faith life. We may be going through the motions. We go to Church, we give our offerings. We even go further and participate in a Bible Study or a committee. That should be ok; God must be pleased with our alertness.
Yet, John the Baptist comes to shake up our routine. He comes to preach repentance. If we read more about him in the Gospels we see that he didn’t spare words to cut through the routine the people of God were used to. And we know how the leaders of the people of God were going(and teaching as well), how they were going through the motions in those days, inviting by their actions God’s admonition, quoted even by Jesus: “I desire mercy, not sacrifices”.
By the way, it is worth to quote here a couple paragraphs of a text written by my friend Pastor Marcos Schmidt: “John the Baptist should never be someone to prepare us for Christmas, right? This is the season of joy, lots of food, presents, ornaments, lights, magic... He comes and ruins it with his so negative preaching, sticking his nose in others affairs, calling people to change their lives. Who does he think he is to call this or that a sin? Who he thinks he is? Such a killjoy. He ended up got what he asked for. If he only could keep his mouth shut everything would have been different.
But the Host of Christmas thinks differently. “Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist.”(Matthew 11) Jesus restitutes John’s head back; not only his head but also his mouth, and brain, and message, and mission. He unfolds the red carpet granting him success in a kingdom that is at the same time close and faraway from people. A voice that still cries in the wilderness: hey, you all immersed in your daily routine, many times going after those things that just lead you astray... be prepared, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.”
So, again, we are sometimes alert and paying attention to all the calendar dates, complying with our obligations and going through the motions. We are alert. God though wants us to be prepared in repentance and faith. That calls us to stand before God’s Mirror and ask:
_Is Jesus really my personal Saviour or just the Deity I worship at Church?
-Is what I sing and say and listen to on Sunday a part of my Tuesday morning; and my Friday afternoon; and my Saturday night?
-Do I only confess my faith facing the altar or also facing my relationships, facing my daily work, facing the computer screen?
-Do I recognize that I am a full poor miserable sinner or do I think that in the end I am not as bad as such and such?
- Is God really above all things, even family, health, friends, money, sports, indulging in life’s pleasures?
We could ask ourselves many other questions, which would reclaim our preparedness, and not only if we are alert, spotting and rationalizing things, but questions that actually hit home in our hearts and lead us to sincere repentance.
In the end, we are never actually prepared. As sinful, weak persons we always fall short of the proper preparation. We might as well be alert and notice many things. But we regularly fall short of God’s commandments and will.
Again, what did John the Baptist come to do? Prepare the way to the Lord. And how did He do that? By asking us to live better lives, to look in ourselves for the strength and wisdom to do so? We know that’s the wrong answer. He pointed to Christ. He pointed to the Messiah that was promised in the days of old. He says that Jesus is “mightier than me”. That may sound like common sense, but if we remember that Jesus said that among those born from women there is no one greater than John, then it makes full sense that our weakness and full dependence must rest on Jesus. If the biggest of all men, John, wasn’t worthy of tying Jesus’ sandals, who do we think we are trying to live by positive thinking, some good thoughts here and there, being merely alert to danger and threats?
We need Christ. We need to be pointed to Him. We need repentance. “Repent and believe in the Gospel”, Jesus will start preaching a couple verses later in Chapter one (v.15). Above all we need to be pointed to his endless love in the Cross, drawing us near and giving us the possibility of placing faith in Him. Repentance and faith. By faith we are prepared by Him who prepared a place for us in Heaven by His death and Resurrection. From being only alert we need to go to the deeper meaning of being prepared. Jesus won His victory over sin and death so we could be in faith be prepared to live in Him and with Him.
These are not only words to make us feel good. This is real preparation for daily life. To face the ups and downs of our existence; to endure loss and sorrow; to celebrate life and family; to give proper value to Church life and Christian life; to confess Christ in and out of the Temple. To reflect God’s love not only to a fellow member but to a complete stranger. God prepares us in His Word and Sacrament to walk from Monday to Sunday in His life, love and care. He sends us to turn faith into action, spreading love, celebrating life, sharing sorrows and pointing to Him.
We usually know these things, realize and even talk about them. God call us to BELIEVE and TRUST the things He teaches us. We can be alert. We actually should. But that is the least part. God brings the preparation, the content. He enables and strengthens us for daily life. In Him we have the sure foundation to resist temptation and keep direction. And when we fail, there He is to lift us up, to forgive, and to restore us. He replaces sin and failure with love and care, wrapping us up in his care, help and protection. So that even then our weakness prevents us from being alert, nothing will take away from our hearts the preparedness God provides with His hand.
Cc – “Prepare the way of the Lord” is the cry in the wilderness. John the Baptist prepared the way for the Messiah. He pointed to the Messiah. He believed in the Messiah, Jesus Christ, the Baby King. We can live in and through Him. We can share Him in our daily life routine. Always alert and soundly prepared. Because More than being alert, we want to be prepared. More than having Christ in mind, we want to have Him in our heart. Amen.
 From the text: “O sucesso do Natal”, by the Rev. Marcos Schmidt, Novo Hamburgo, Brazil. http://toquedevida.blogspot.ca/2014/12/o-sucesso-do-natal.html