Advent seems to be a time for prophets. Like John, they come to prepare the way of God’s salvation. They bring messages of hope, like we learned last week from Jeremiah.
But unless they’re on a sitcom, I can’t say prophets are always fun to be around. Biblical prophets, especially, like to point out our flaws...and demand we do more for the poor and downtrodden. It seems like all they say is repent and be righteous, help the widows and orphans, seek justice and don’t do bad things. It’s no surprise people go out of their way to avoid them.
John the Baptist was different. People came to him. We might think of him today as both a prophet and a pioneer. The son of a temple priest, John left his rightful place in the church for the wilderness. He abandoned the ceremonial purification pools of the Temple for the wild, flowing waters of the Jordan River. Part rebel, part unpredictable wild man John broke the barriers of religion and ritual to pave the way for the coming Messiah.
John the pioneer knew the walls and rituals of the Temple could no longer contain God’s movement. So John the prophet cried out in the wilderness, “Repent. God’s on the move. Everything’s about to change.” No longer was God sitting around waiting for us to visit. God was coming to us. So, we better be prepared.
Like any good prophet, John called us to “Repent, turn away from sin and return to God’s loving arms.” And in doing so, John the pioneer, ushered in a new relationship between God and humanity. He knew that “God’s relentless love would not allow a mountain or hill, an ideology or ritual to get in the way of God’s salvation.” If you listen carefully you can still hear his voice echo in the wilds of life.
Repent. Come clean. And come home.
We need prophets and pioneers like John whose message “breaks into our world with deafening silence and shatters the dark of despair with the light of love.” We need prophets like John, Isaiah, and Jeremiah to tell God’s salvation “to a world longing for hope and love in their lives.” They are the pioneers who will lead us into a future where no one will lack or have a need for more.
We need to tune our ears better and listen to what they have to say, because their words matter. Their words matter to those who have no voice, no rights, no hope. Their words matter to the people who sit in darkness and despair. Their words matter to all who suffer from having made poor life choices or squandered any opportunity to make it right. To anyone who doesn’t feel worthy enough, or good enough, or simply enough to be redeemed in God’s love John is calling out you.
Repent. Come clean and come home.
I know that these words can be hard to hear, or understand. For many, the word repent can seem judgmental... making you feel ashamed and filled with guilt. But repentance isn’t a punishment. It’s the opposite. It’s the good news of God’s redeeming love and grace that frees us of our sin and shame. Repentance empties us of our world, and fills us with God’s unconditional love.
John is inviting you to turn around, and walk away from you’re doing and return to what God is doing, and has always been doing since the beginning of time. The world needs prophets like John to remind us that God’s got this. God is our strength and our hope that gets us through the wilderness of life.
I think it’s safe to say our communities, and nation, and world need more prophetic and pioneering voices. And that’s where we come in. As Christ followers, it’s up to us to share the good news – to go into the wilderness and be the voice of the voiceless, the hope of the hopeless, the love of the loveless.
Advent is not just a time to wait for Christ to come again, it’s a time to actively participate in the reason he came in the first place.
So, my challenge to you is simply this: Are you willing to be a prophet?
Are you willing to walk out in faith and love people where they are, without judgment or making them feel ashamed or less than? Are you willing to show the world what it means to hold on to real hope, to experience real love, and to forgive even the unforgivable?
Advent is a time to live out your faith in new and groundbreaking ways, so people might see Christ in their midst, right here and right now. And so Advent is a time to profess and practice the good news that has come and will come again.
We are given this time of wait to tune our ears to the crying voices in the wilderness. And to go be among them and help them to prepare their way home. The world needs more prophets and pioneers because the world needs more hope...and more love. The kind of love God has given to us through Christ Jesus.
We light the second Advent candle this week to remind us that as we prepare ourselves to meet the Christ, who has come and will come again, God’s love is and has always been with us. As we watch the flame flicker, we are reminded that God’s love is always in our midst, moving through the wind of the wilderness and flowing in the water of the wild, raging rivers. It is the fire of the Holy Spirit, calling us to Repent. Come clean. And come home.
Anderson, T. Denise. "Living by the Word." Christian Century 132, no. 24 (Nov 2015).
Charles, Gary. Feasting on the Word: Advent Companion. Edited by David Barlett, & Kimberly Bracken Long Barbara Brown Taylor. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2014.
Johnson, Deon. "Who Needs A Prophet Anyway?" episcopaldigitalnetwork.com. 12 3, 2018. http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/stw/2018/11/06/who-needs-a-prophet-advent-2-c-december-9-2018/ (accessed 12 5, 2018).
Roberie, Joshua. Relevent Magazine. Nov 17, 2015. http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/practical-faith/when-god-leaves-you-waiting (accessed Nov 25, 2015).
An ex-copywriter turned punk rock pastor and peacemaker who dedicates his life to making the world a better place for all humanity.
"that they all might be one" ~John 17:21
“Prius vita quam doctrina.”
~ St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)
* “Life is more important than doctrine.”