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1 Advent II B 2011 Pastor Dena Williams Denver, Colorado The Holy Gospel according to the Community of St.

Mark in the 1st Chapter Glory to you, O Lord The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, "See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,'" John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, "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 you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."

A Time to Wait, A Time to Witness A Time to Wait, A Time to Witness The season of Advent calls us to wait and to witness.

2 Our world calls us to do neither. Our world calls us to worry. The list of things to worry about seems particularly long these days: the risk of terrorism, soldiers dying on foreign soil, the poor economy, losses on the stock market, high cost for health care and prescription drugs, the job market, global warming, endangered species and ecosystems, pollution, violence in our neighborhoods, violence in the middle east, drought in Africa, political unrest in many places, the drop in funding for nonprofits, including churches and agencies that serve those in need. Our world calls us to worry. The season of Advent calls us to wait. We seem to be waiting in the dark, worrying all the while. Will we be so lost in worry that at the end of our wait we will miss the one to come? We have a sense of vagueness. Our worry interferes with our wait. What are we waiting for? we ask, in the midst of our worry and uncertainty. We may take comfort in knowing that John the Baptist seems vague and uncertain as well. We seem to be in good company. John, you sound so uncertain. You seem to be preparing the way for someone, but you seem clueless about who it is. You seem only to know he is the one who will come after me.

3 You know he is powerful, but will you recognize him when he comes? You dont seem to be very in charge here, John. You dont seem in control of whatever is about to happen. Arent you worried? We would be worried! We are worried! We feel that the world is out of control. Is this a yellow, orange, or red alert day? We are waiting for something to happen, but were not sure what. We are vague and uncertain. With John, we seem not to know quite what we are waiting for. With John, we seem to know that we are lonely and in need. John, however, is clear about several things that are cloudy to us: First, he is clear about what he needs. We often are not. We sometimes think we know what we need. In our world, it seems most often, that what we think we need is . . . more money. If we have enough money, we think we need . . . more time. If we have enough money and time, we think we need . . . more challenge. If we have enough money and time and challenge, we think we need . . . well, you fill in the blank. The list goes on forever. John, on the other hand, is quite clear about what he needs: he needs to baptize. He knows that he was sent to baptize and so we find him at the Jordan doing exactly that: inviting others to join him in the river to be baptized in the water. Now, John seems unclear about the particulars: he cant seem to name who is coming,

4 only that the one coming will baptize with the Holy Spirit. He seems unclear, but there is something else that he is very clear about. John is certain about who is in charge. We often act as though were not sure. We worry. We try desperately to make things right. We plot and scheme and figure. We try to take control of our lives. Then, finally at some point, when we realize we are not in charge, we may remember who is. We may remember that God loves us so much that God is willing to take charge of our lives. We may remember to pray, to listen, to trust God to come to us and take our hand as we stumble around worrying and waiting in the dark. John, on the other hand, knows who is in charge during the time of waiting. He knows who is in charge because he remembers who sent him. There was a man, sent from God, whose name was John. John knows that God, the one who sent him, is in control. What was written about John, may be written about each of us as well: There is a man sent from God, whose name is _______________. There is a woman sent from God, whose name is ______________. There is a young person sent from God, whose name is ______________. There is a child sent from God, whose name is ______________. Put your name in the blank. For you are sent by God, as surely as John. John knows what he needshe needs to baptize. John knows who is in chargeGod is in charge.

5 John knows who sent himhe was sent by God. John is also confident about what he is to do while he waits. We dont seem to know how to wait. We resist waiting. We often make worry a huge part of our waiting. During this Advent season, our list of things to worry about lengthens: cards to write, packages to mail, shopping to do, cookies to bake, tree to buy, house to decorate, airline tickets to purchase, and then there is that church stuff: poinsettias to order, greens to hang, Christmas Eve volunteers needed, Christmas program parts to learn, an extra plate of cookies to bring, gifts for the giving tree. So we wait and we worry. I do not believe that God intends for us to worry while we wait. Why? Because God knows that worry robs us of our joy. May our preparations this year continue. May the packages get wrapped, the decorations be put in place, the church volunteering get done, but may all be done without the worries of the world, may all be done in the spirit of joy that God intends for us. Perhaps the answer to our worry, the answer to entering the joy of the season, lies in this story of John the Baptist. John knows what to do while he waits. He knows that he is called to proclaim, to witness to the one who is to come. We too, are called to witness as we wait.

What would Advent look like if we focused on witness instead of worry? Perhaps as we shopped, we would extend extraordinary politeness, Christ like patience to others. As we wrapped gifts, we would include love in the packages. When we decided on our budget, we would make it a point to remember those in need this season and the year round. Decorating the tree and house, we would be sure that everyones feelings were well tended in the chaos. Perhaps we could even be more intentional in our witness. We would take advantage of the season to invite, welcome, and encourage others to worship with us. Come and hear Lessons and Carols for Advent with me. Would you like to come to the childrens Christmas program? Do you worship anywhere on Christmas Eve? You know the Sunday after Christmas, we have an entire worship where we sing all of the favorite Christmas Carols. Wouldnt you like to come and hear our wonderful choir and sing with us? If we are able to focus on witness during this Advent our new found joy might even be evident to others. We might find ourselves in a position to say: Youre right, Im not as frantic this year, I am learning to wait with joy for the coming of the one at Christmas. And the one will come. regardless of how we wait, we can trust the one will come. Amen