READIINGS: Isaiah 40:1-11 ~ 2 Peter 3:8-15a ~ Mark 1:1-8
A seasoned priest was being interviewed for a new parish. After going through all the usual questions, the interview team asked if the priest had any questions for them.
Yes, replied the priest, I do. If I come among and preach the gospel, will you be offended?
Of course not, replied the interviewers, somewhat taken aback. That’s what we want you to do.
Well… the priest went to the church and began to preach the gospel… And it didn’t take long for the parish to be offended.
You see, there are at least two versions of the gospel in the world. One is the watered-down, domesticated version that most of us are used to. It may be a little challenging but it’s fairly comfortable. The other is the raw and undiluted gospel of Jesus Christ. It’s powerful. It’s edgy. And it offends people; especially those who are comfortable with the current condition of the world.
John the Baptist was what we often refer to as a “P.K.”, a preacher’s kid. His father, Zechariah, was a priest at the temple. But when John was sent to prepare the way of the Lord, he did so outside of the institution.
John was anything but sweet and domesticated as he went about his mission. And many found his words offensive – especially those who were comfortable with the status quo. It cost him his life, but he got the job done. He shook things up and got people ready for the coming of the Lord.
Our task this Advent and always is to first get ourselves ready for Christmas – and I’m not talking about the baking, decorating and shopping. It’s about getting our hearts ready and our lives ready for the coming of Jesus.
If we are benefitting in any way from the exploitation of others or the planet, John warns us to clean up our act before its too late.
If we are going to pray and sing for Emmanuel to come … and mean it… then we’d better get ready for his arrival!
Think on that as we listen to our anthem, Come, Emmanuel, Come.
The Advent/Christmas season is flavoured with the memories of those who have gone before us. The prayers of those who once worshipped here still gently linger in these walls. And those whose lives have touched ours are like gentle footprints on our hearts. We are going to take time to honour them now on our Memory Tree.