The beginning is near

Homily for St. Timothy’s. Hatchet Lake. NS
Evening Service
III Advent/16 December 2018
Gospel: Luke 3:7-18


Let us pray.

Come Lord Jesus, you who renew us in your love…Come…makes us to be the faithful people you have called us to be.
Come Lord Jesus, Come…so that we may sing and shout aloud; so that me may rejoice; so that we may not be afraid; For one day you will come.
You will refine us as fire purifies silver; You will brighten us with fuller’s soap. You will deal with the oppressors . You will remove disasters. You will save the ill and the outcast.
Come Lord Jesus, you who renew us in your love…Come…You will turn our shame into praise; our sorrow into joy. Come Lord Jesus, Come. (Zephaniah 3:14-20, paraphrase)

In the name of the holy, undivided One: +Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

(holding up countdown to Christmas app)
From this very moment…in just ______________ breaths.
From this very moment…in just ______________ heartbeats.
From this very moment…in just ______________ seconds.
From this very moment…in just ______________ minutes.
From this very moment…in just ______________ hours.
From this very moment…in just ______________ sleeps.
From this very moment…in just ______________ week and ______________ day…

(adjust volume…app plays “Jingle Bells”)

Soon it will be……CHRISTMAS DAY!!!!!!

The end is near…and there is an app for that!

This is not quite the countdown that John the Baptizer had in mind in the Gospel reading for this Sunday, the Third in Advent. But, he is counting down to something.

“You brood of vipers. Who told you to escape from God’s coming anger?”

He must have been quite a spectacle down to his name very name John which means “Jehovah is gracious.” He wouldn’t have looked the way one would have expected him to look with a good name like that.

And, he is a blood relative of Jesus. In fact, John and Jesus meet for the very first time when still in utero.

[One of things to remember about Luke’s Gospel is that one of Luke’s concerns is recording history. In fact, Luke is a two-parter. The Gospel of Luke is Pt. I. Pt. II is the Acts of the Apostles. I say this here because it’s good information to have when you’re sharing your faith with someone, in case they question if what the Bible tells us is real. So, no one needs to have any doubt as to whether John or Jesus lived.]

Very early in Luke we learn that while pregnant, Mary goes to see her relative Elizabeth, IMG_0014who is also expecting. Can you imagine the joy and the wonder they shared, comparing their experiences of pregnancy, talking about the extended family and Mary’s journey to see Elizabeth? Well, just before all of the chatter and sharing…

Elizabeth hears Mary’s greeting and the child leaps in her womb. And Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaims with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leapt for joy. And blessed is she who believes that there will be a fulfillment of what is spoken to her by the Lord.’ (Luke 1:41-45)

The fulfillment, as you well know, is that John and Jesus both have a ministry. John’s call of repentance and baptism is to the Gentiles – they are converting to the Jewish faith as non-Jews. Baptism is the initiation to a transformed life in God, just as it is for us today. Through their repentance and baptism, they are called to live changed lives. They are called to share what they have with those in need. They are called to live lives that do not exploit or extort others. In our baptism we are called to share what we have with those in need. We are called to live lives that do not exploit or extort others.

You probably already know that tax collectors levied a little extra (well – probably a lot extra) on top of what the government required them to collect. It’s how the tax collectors made a living — probably more lavish than they needed. It was all legal. But, they were the worst of the worst as far as the average citizens were concerned. And, they particularly exploited the poor and the needy. So, it must have been an amazing spectacle – these tax collectors repenting and turning to live faithfully to God.

Further, John’s ministry was as one wandering preacher. He must have been quite a sight – he preached repentance and about endings (or, perhaps we might say he preached about beginnings and God’s coming restoration!) He did this — and to us he might look like a contestant on Survivor: the Judean wilderness – he did this surviving on locusts and honey; he did this clothed in animal skins, wandering in the wilderness.

No wonder they thought he might be the Messiah – the chosen, expected one that God would one day send to restore creation. John sure was “different.” Notice that John never claims to be someone that he is not.

‘I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. (Luke 3:16)

John was counting down…pointing the way to Jesus.

It’s easy to think of Advent as the countdown to Christmas, isn’t it? And, that’s ok. We need the time to make our plans, to do the baking, to prepare the turkey, to celebrate, to give gifts and all that we do to celebrate the gifts of hope, peace, joy and love. And, we should do these things. Because they are all rooted in the profound and lavish love that God has for us. We know this as those who John baptized came to know – that there is one who comes. And, the one who comes this Christmas promises to come again.

When he does, his winnowing fork will be in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn. Luke concludes this passage knowing what John knows and what Christ’s coming, Christ’s resurrection and Christ’s coming again will show – this is the proclamation of good news to the people.

Still, it seems easier for people to long for good news in other places — like phone apps. You can countdown to Christmas.

You can also countdown to your death. Have you heard about Gero Lifespan? An article in the UK tabloid, The Sun says that:

“…it’s built by a team of scientists hoping to ‘hack ageing.’ …It then uses official health data to work out the average lifespan for a person like you, and then changes the number depending on how active your lifestyle is. You’ll be given weekly and monthly readouts about your lifespan stats, based on your motion activity and sleep data.”

And so, my sisters and brothers, apps or no apps, be assured that the end is near!

Receive and believe the good news so that you may stand among all who claim Christ’s coming and his baptism into the Holy Spirit with fire. When he comes, we will again shout with the great company of heaven…

Blessed is the king
who comes in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven,
and glory in the highest heaven!’ (Luke 19:38)

And so, Happy Advent everyone! The beginning is near!

We say this because we know that Christ has come. We know that he will come again.

In the name of the holy, undivided One: +Father, Son and Holy Spirit.