Audio 2 Advent Yr C December 9 2018 Malachi 3:1-4, Philippians 1:3-11, Luke 3:1-6, Canticle 9 First Song of Isaiah
Nine months Zechariah was quiet, nine months he could not speak, nine months Elizabeth didn't hear him complain, nine months he had to think about what his first words would be. And those first words out of Zechariah's mouth were "Blessed be The Lord God of Israel, for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them." Zechariah was a priest in the temple. What did he do for those nine months of silence, those nine months of preparation for this child who could not be, this child to be born to his barren wife Elizabeth, this child who was an impossibility, this child who would prepare the way for the one to come after him. Zechariah waited in silence. Silence in the face of mystery, silence in the presence of new life, silence, as the world is about to turn.
John the Baptist, son of Zechariah, the priest of the temple and his wife Elizabeth, was as different from his father as locusts are different from lobster. John, son of Zechariah, lived in the wilderness, not in the temple confines like his father and mother. John, an itinerant preacher, son of Zechariah, priest of the temple, proclaimed a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Not temple sacrifice, not temple piety, but repentance. John, son of Zechariah, preparing the way for the one who is to come. The one who changes everything.
The world is about to turn. The coming of Christ into the world changes everything. Blessed be the Lord God.
You see, what is happening here has far reaching effects. This story of John, and the story of Jesus, is set squarely in the political context of it's day. In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas. It is at this time and this place that God is doing something new, that the world is turning, that change is happening. We are being pointed toward this absolutely new thing that God is doing in the world, we are to prepare for it, we are to stay awake, keep alert, be ready. The birth of two baby boys, first John and then Jesus, has everything to do with everything, Luke is saying. These seemingly insignificant baby boys change the world, Luke knows that and is telling us that.
Luke has John say these words from Isaiah. “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”
In Isaiah these words are about God leading God's people out of exile, back to their land. God will make straight paths through the wilderness, a smooth and easy return -- in essence a new "exodus" -- bringing the people of Israel out of bondage and back to the Promised Land. The path is for the people; God-made, God-led. And in Luke, John points directly at Jesus, who comes to empower and finish the re-turn of God's people to their God. John points to Jesus who shows all humanity that Love wins.
These two bundles of promise, John, born to Elizabeth and Zechariah, and Jesus, born to Mary and Joseph, bring God's love into time and space. These two bundles of hope, show us that the world is about to change. These two bundles of peace, speak truth to power. These two bundles of joy, bear such grief to their mothers. These two bundles show the world that love wins.
John, who is the unlikely bearer of good news, the one who from the wilderness, not the seats of power, announces the coming of the kingdom. Prepare, the world is about to change. You are about to change. That is the repentance that John calls us to. You see, waiting is not doing nothing. Waiting is about preparing for the surprise, waiting is about turning around and paying attention, waiting is about participating in the reality of God's kingdom, waiting is about the not yet that already is. Waiting is about being who God calls you to be, whether or not you know who that is yet. The repentance that John calls us to is a change of direction in mind and action. It is not about feeling bad or good or shameful. Repentance is being who God calls you to be, and who God calls us to be. And being who God calls us to be is what we do in the waiting, it is what we do in the preparing. And who God calls us to be may be surprising, indeed, if it is not surprising, it may not be God doing the calling.
So in this Advent waiting that is not doing nothing, we may hear God's voice surprising us. God's voice that says you are already loved, you can do nothing more or less to earn my love. Let go, give up control. Put up your tent, make camp right here. Enjoy what this is, right here, right now. The one next to you is also already loved, just as much as you are. Give her a smile, buy his coffee, make their day.
So in this Advent waiting that is not doing nothing, we may hear God's voice surprising us. Take time to pray, to listen, to wonder, to invite God into this day, this circumstance, this ordinary stable in which we live. Give up the busyness, the worry, the noise, the stress. Be filled with the Love that is born in the mess of the stable, the Love that is born in your heart, the Love that is born here each time the one who is looking for something more finds their way to this table. Be filled with the Love that wins your time and attention, your pocketbook, your heart and your mind and your soul.
And in this Advent waiting that is not doing nothing, in this in between time that is the now and not yet, remember Zechariah’s silence, remember Elizabeth’s surprise. In this Advent waiting that is not doing nothing, in this in between time that is the now and not yet, remember John’s call to turn around, listen, pay attention, prepare a place for Love to be born.