Second Sunday of Advent

Repentance and the Gospel

Israel was under bondage to Rome. They had not heard from a prophet of God for four hundred years. They were longing for a message of deliverance. Where was the God of the Covenant?

As prophesied by Malachi, suddenly, God’s messenger would appear:

See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?

For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness.   (Malachi 3:1-3)

God’s messenger was John the Baptist. Reading from the Gospel of Luke:

The word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah,

“The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:

‘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.'”   (Luke 3:2-6)

God was fulfilling his covenant promise, but Israel was not ready for how he would do it. He would require them to repent, for they had not kept their end of the Abrahamic Covenant. They had not been faithful in following the Commandments of Moses. A correction was required by God. How would he do it?

Reading the prophecy of Zechariah from the first chapter of Luke:

“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them.
He has raised up a mighty savior for us
in the house of his servant David,
as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us.
Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors,
and has remembered his holy covenant,
the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham,
to grant us that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies,
might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness
before him all our days.   (Luke 1: 68-75)

A savior was raised up from the house of David. He would be able to fulfill the righteous requirements of the Abrahamic Covenant that no one else could fulfill. John the Baptist would prepare the people to receive the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Continuing with prophecy of Zechariah:

And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
to give knowledge of salvation to his people
by the forgiveness of their sins.
By the tender mercy of our God,
the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.”   (Luke 1: 76-79)

Notice that the forgiveness of sin was central to the message of John. John reached:

John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.   (Mark 1:4)

What Jesus began his earthly ministry, he preached the same message:

Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”   (Mark 1:14)

Sadly, much of today’s Gospel message leaves out the requirement for repentance. For this reason it has no power. Because of certain “mandates” many people are afraid to openly worship God. Has not God delivered us from fear?

He has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors,
and has remembered his holy covenant,
the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham,
to grant us that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies,
might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness
before him all our days.   (Luke 1: 72-75)

There is little boldness in those who have not totally surrendered to Jesus. All of us need the light of Christ to survive the times we are in.

By the tender mercy of our God,
    the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
    to guide our feet into the way of peace.”   (Luke 1:78-79)

God is with us. Are we with him?

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.   (Psalm 23:4)

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Filed under Advent, homily, Jesus, John the Baptist, lectionary, liturgical preaching, liturgy, preaching, Revised Common Lectionary, sermon, sermon development, Year C

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