Advent 2 B 2020
Grace to you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Today, on this the second Sunday in the Season of Advent, we hear again the Voice of John the Baptist crying out in a loud voice “Prepare the way of the lord.”
Out in the wilderness, away from the bright lights and civilized people, John the Baptist (in all four Gospels) points the way to the Savior.
Now, I know, when we think of the wilderness, we often think of a place where nothing important happens. And yet, we know that in the Bible the wilderness has served as a place for retreat, for reflection, for meditation, for prayer and for renewal.
The wilderness area, far removed from the settled and easier ways of life, was often a place for purification, a place of preparation, of struggle, of waiting and expectation, a place where the people of God could get back in touch with God.
The Old Testament informs us that the people Of Israel, after they fled from Egypt, wandered for forty years in the wilderness before they entered the Promised Land.
We know that Jesus often withdrew to a quiet place to be alone and pray and prepare Himself for the work His Father send Him to do.
And so going out into the wilderness was not simply an attempt to escape the distractions of daily life, it was a place where one could prepare to return to the world refreshed in spirit. The wilderness area served as a place for renewal, and a place where one could draw close to God.
St. Hilary, a 4th century Bishop, once stated this concerning the wilderness area. “Everything that seems empty is full of the angels of GOD.” I find that to be a very good description of the wilderness area that John the Baptist calls us to journey too on this the Second Sunday in Advent.
In the wilderness area, John the Baptist issued a call of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. John’s call was a call to repent.The Greek word for repentance means “to change one’s mind.” The Hebrew word means to do a physical about-face, to make a 180 degree change in direction.
Repentance therefore implies a new way of thinking that results in a new way of living. To repent means to turn around and to change.
The repentance that John preached is best understood by the phrase “a contrite heart.” This is a heart that finds its present condition unacceptable, a heart that seeks real and substantial change, a heart that is prepared for the coming of the Christ.
John’s call to the wilderness is a call for renewal as we acknowledge our sinfulness and hear the Good News of the promised Savior.
But there is more than just the call to repentance in the wilderness. There is Good News in the wilderness. It’s not just about John. It’s about the One mentioned in Mark’s very first verse.
Mark’s Gospel and our text begin with the words, “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” Mark sees the activity of the John the Baptist as the start of the good news concerning Jesus.
John’s real significance therefore lies in his pointing to the One who follows. For John states: “The One who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
And so our Gospel message today is not just a message that rails on us as sinners, threatening us with destruction. There is Good News here. There is grace. John is saying that God knows we are lost and that God is sending one to look after us, to offer us forgiveness and hope.
When John says, “Repent” John is really telling us to turn around and embrace this One who is coming to us, the One who brings forgiveness and hope.
The Gospel today is Good News for sinners.
The Gospel today offers us a word of Good News about a God whose ways are not our ways, and whose grace is amazing. Our Gospel today tells us of a God who sends a messenger from the wilderness to inform us that we are not forgotten or abandoned.
Therefore; there is no wilderness big enough or dry enough or dark enough to stop God’s coming. And that is what the Advent Season is all about. It is not just preparing for a day. It is about preparing for a person. It’s about preparing for the coming of the Savior.
Like John the Baptist, we too are called to prepare the way. We are called to repentance. We are called to recognize the gift of God’s grace in Christ. And we are called to tell the world the Good News.
Let us pray: God of all peoples, your servant John came baptizing and calling for repentance. Help us to hear his voice of judgment, that we may forsake our sins and greet with joy the coming of the Christ Child when He shall come again to judge the living and the dead. Help us to prepare the way and shed light on the darkness of this world. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.