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Second Sunday of Advent

Readings: Isaiah 40:1-11; Psalm 85:1-2.8-13; II Peter 3:8-15a; Mark 1:1-8

John the Baptism was the son of Elizabeth and Zechariah, Elizabeth being the cousin of Mary.  Recall that Mary, early in her pregnancy, rushed to visit Elizabeth.  Upon hearing Mary’s voice, John, while still in the womb, leapt for joy.  John grew into what we would today call “a bull in a china closet”.  Living in the wilderness, eating locusts and wild honey, clothed in camels’ hair with a leather belt, he must have been quite the sight.  He seemed intent on challenging the norms of proper society, and disturbing the tranquility of the day.  He called people to re-pent, to re-orient, to re-focus their lives on God. 

And people flocked to him; they sought him out to assist in the re-orienting their lives.  He baptized them.  They went to the East bank of the Jordan River, removed their clothing, waded through the river and put on new clothes on the West bank to emphasize their new re-oriented lives.  Sometimes they even took new names.  They were re-tracing the steps of their ancestors who with Joshua pledged their re-newed faithfulness to God, crossed the Jordan River and walked into the Promised Land for the first time. 

John the Baptizer prepared the people for his cousin Jesus who began his ministry with these words from the Gospel according to St. Mark–

The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel,

About 70 years later the Letter of Second Peter was written by a follower of Jesus.  He was a man of faith writing to encourage others to continue faithful living even though their expectation of a rapid return of Jesus in glory and power had not been fulfilled.  They had re-pented, they had re-focused, they had re-oriented their lives.  The letter’s author encouraged them to continue to lead “lives of holiness and godliness”, and to be patient. 

Twenty centuries later we are still waiting for the Risen Christ to return in glory and power. 

Coupled with our readings from the Gospel according to St. Mark and the Second Letter of Peter, we have these words of the Psalmist

Listen to what the Lord God is saying, for he is speaking peace to his faithful people and to those who turn their hearts to him.

God is speaking peace, not tranquility!  Peace is not through the destruction of the opposition, or subjection, or controlling, or defeating them.  Shalom- Peace includes justice.  Shalom-Peace is when as the Psalmist declared

mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.

To obtain Shalom-Peace, peace with justice, we need peace makers. 

The final word this morning comes from the prophet Isaiah.                                                      

Comfort, O Comfort my people, says [our] God.

The ancient meaning of “comfort” is not the image of a parent holding gently a child.  Rather it is the image of a parent fortifying, strengthening, a child for the challenges ahead.  Comforting is  like making sure a child has a hearty breakfast before heading off to school in the morning to face the day. 

In these tempestuous, challenging days, we are called to strengthen for peace-making the next generations.  We are called to nurture, to form the re-councilors, the bridge-builders, of the next generations.

The St. Nicholas Endowment Fund did that this week in granting $50.00 to the ten first grade teachers for their out-of-pocket classroom expenses.

And as I visit among you, I hear about your shaping the next generations,

  • your caring for children,
  • your providing child care,
  • your caring for those with special needs,
  • your preparing to teach,
  • your teaching,
  • your sharing information,
  • your supporting the library,
  • your driving school buses,
  • your supporting Meals for Seals,
  • your mentoring,
  • your praying for the generations to follow.

Well done, and again I say, well done.  And carry on; carry on. 

My prayer for us is again Psalm 85: 8

that [we will] listen to what the Lord God is saying for he is speaking peace to his faithful people and to those who turn their heart to him.

May we listen.  May we be instruments of peace, and may we be active participants in the lives of the peacemakers who follow, in the re-councilors who follow, in the bridge-builders who follow. 

Then maybe one day the peace that surpasses all understanding will embrace us all. 

Amen

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