Year B, Advent 2
Rev. Katie Holicky, Assistant Rector
St. Paul’s Brunswick
I have an incredibly deep love of Christmas. Such a deep love in fact I have been known to become so squeal-ly I annoy my family. For the last decade my beloved has ever so gently, and yet with many a stern look, reminded me that everything has its season. In our family the season of preparing for Christmas may officially begin once the clock strikes midnight after Thanksgiving.
When I was a bit younger I would joyfully wait for the hands of the clock to align and fall on that most magic time. I would open the first box of decorations and blare my first Christmas song of the season. Phil would often look at me and say… yes… now it is time.
Over the last few years, as I have aged and found myself living life in a new decade of existence, I can no longer muster the energy to stay awake and begin decorating at midnight. I do, however, still love the joy of pulling out each ornament, each little tree to be placed around the house, each jingle bell… you get it… making merry…. Preparing.
This year though… I will confess I was not able to meet this moment with the same joy that I have in the past. Thanksgiving dinner came and went and Phil looked at me and said, “You really have shown great restraint this year with Christmas”. Wanting to be honest and not pretend that I was indeed so much more mature and patient than I actually am, this year I simply sighed and said, “Meh… it’s 2020. It feels a bit sad”. Yet, the season has arrived. Decorating has begun. Perhaps not with the same gusto… but still… the preparation has started. No matter how strange, weird, and a bit unexpected this particular season feels.
And I find it all somewhat fitting as we arrive in Mark meeting the strange, weird, unexpectedness of John the Baptist. This man is eating bugs, living in the wild, calling for people to change their hearts. The historical context of this moment in Mark is all too real to us these days. People are at odds with one another, families divided (FOTW, 44-46). The leadership of the Roman Empire is a total mess as the Emperor Niro dies and there are a string of leaders who come and quickly go after him. People are worried, living in uncertainty, and looking for ways to move forward in hope and peace. They are seeking perhaps a sense of normalcy and a more just life.
And with all of that… the first readers of this text are told there is “good news”. Good news?! Here the writer of Mark harkens back to the age of prophets and the ways in which God breaks into the world… this time by way of the Messiah. The one who comes to help us re-orient things back to the proper order (FOTW, 46).
Jesus, son of God, is coming to challenge the world that they knew (WBC, 480). This is such a powerful message that reaches the hearts of many from diverse backgrounds as we see those from country and city alike coming out to the river to hear John. To consider how they might prepare for the coming of the one who comes after.
And they, and let’s be clear we are as well, are extended this call to repentance, confession. To consider the things that might be keeping us from preparing our hearts for the Messiah. For the one who will baptize with the Spirit. When we told this story at 9:30 this morning it read something like, “to turn your hearts to God and let God love you”. To turn and let God love you.
This season of Advent is not just about confessing and preparing… it is about waiting. And, “Waiting for the savior is humbling. It forces us to admit that the world does not operate on our schedule” (FOTW, 48). I think this year this is even harder as we have been reminded time and time again that the world does not operate on our schedules… no matter the aches and longings of our hearts.
When we confess in just a bit… I would like to invite all of us to truly consider what we need to let go of so that we might turn our hearts to the humility of waiting for Jesus in hope, peace, love and joy. What do we need to let go of? What healing do our hearts need?
John the Baptist reminds us in the wearing of camel hair as Elijah did… that moving forward requires retrospection (FOTW, 49)… looking back … seeing what we maybe couldn’t see before and repenting. Trusting that in this act we are walking in that place where we can receive Jesus in our hearts time and time again.
Look, the trees will go up no matter the lack of gusto. In fact, if you caught the Katie’s Corner video last week you can see that even though it was not the same… our halls have been decked. The weeks of Advent will unfold and we will be celebrating God breaking into the world come Christmas Eve. Looking at the ways Jesus might inspire us to be a part of reorienting the world in justice and peace again.
And we get to choose what type of spiritual journey we take this year. So… how are we going to prepare our hearts? How are we going to turn inward? How are we going to settle deeper and tend to those things that actually prepare us to fully welcome the hope, peace, love and joy of Jesus coming into the world? How will we take up this call from John the Baptist to turn to God and let God love us?