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Prepare the Way of the Lord - Reflections on Advent 2



Here is HOT news from the culinary world — some expert chefs think that locusts are set to take over from beef and chicken in the future.


Yummy…


I’m not sure how comfortable I am with that — because l do like my meat — but I’m sure John the Baptist would be licking his lips with anticipation.


I’m told they taste like chicken with a bit of a crunch — and, no, I read that on the Internet rather than trying them for myself.


The Bible tells us that he ate locusts and honey and wore clothes made of camel hair — not the softest of stuff on delicate skin, I reckon…


But chomping locusts wasn’t the only reason I think of John the Baptist as a far-out guy…

  • He was raised out in the desert with minimal contact with human civilisation.

  • He grew up with little or no contact with their mother or father, brothers or sisters.

  • He spent time living with a group of crusty old men in a monastery in the desert, far away from society.

  • He was irresistibly attracted to the wilderness with the silence of the desert, the sounds of winds and shifting sands.


Of course, he would turn out a little strange, wouldn’t you?


But John’s life was entirely dedicated to God. To be fair, there wasn’t much to do in the desert, as you can imagine, night after night, day after day.


That’s why he went there in the first place.


Then, strangely, as time went on, people started to come. First, a few and then a crowd. They came to hear him preach. Walking ten, twenty, or thirty miles from their towns and villages into the wilderness to listen to this desert prophet.


That is a long way to walk for a sermon. Not sure I’d do it, would you?


They wanted to see this man and find what he found in the desert and what they were probably unable to find in their daily lives.


So these people came looking. They came searching. They wanted to find something special, something different, to connect with God somehow through this unusual man.

The message this desert prophet gave them was essentially one word — ‘prepare’.

Prepare for the coming of Christ, for the coming of the King. Isn’t that what we spend so much time doing during Advent?


You know we spend hours of our lives waiting. On average, a person spends between 45 and 63 minutes a day waiting, which adds up to 3 years over an average lifetime.


We wait for buses. We wait for petrol pumps to splurge out fuel. We wait to pay at checkouts.


We wait for the kettle to boil — and, remember, “a watched pot never boils.”


And, dare I say, we wait for sermons — to end 😉


Advent is a time of preparation and waiting, But waiting is one of the hardest things to do.

John the Baptist waited in the desert until the time was right for him to step out and do what he had spent his time preparing for. He was the one who was spoken of in the Old Testament, that voice crying out in the desert to prepare the way of the Lord.


He spent his waiting time getting ready to meet this Coming One — to baptise him and, later, to die for what he believed in.


If we try to do things without God’s power enabling us, we risk expending a lot of energy and activity without really doing what is needed.


We run around like headless chickens — and become human doings, not human beings.

Waiting in these kinds of situations is simply an inconvenience.


This waiting is frustrating, and the longer we wait, the more it tests our character. There are times in our lives when waiting is a time for action — not for doing nothing.


The thing about waiting for God is that it is not about waiting for a specific moment in history, like children waiting for Christmas day, but it is about waiting for a whole new type of reality, a new way of doing things.


It dawned on me that there are different ways to wait. Waiting does not mean sitting around doing anything; it should not suggest an anxious state of worry.


Neither does waiting have to imply boredom.

Waiting is frequently a condition of expectancy, infusing life with great energy, purpose and love.

In that sense, waiting is close to what we mean when we speak of hope, for what is hope if it is not a kind of creative waiting? To live in hope is to live in the power of the future without possessing it. What defines each of us most importantly is the kind of hope we allow to shape us, the hope that renews us and gives us substance, meaning, and purpose in our lives.


There are times when we must wait; we should ask ourselves how we are waiting. Are we waiting in silence and stillness, finding time to be with God so we can hear what God is telling us, like John in the desert?


Why not commit to taking time this week to be alone with God for a moment, for a minute, being still, absolutely still and listening?


God speaks in the wilderness of silence, in the waiting time. We are often so noisy, so busy, and so crowded in our minds, especially this time of year with all the preparations for Christmas, that we forget to take time to prepare ourselves and our hearts.


So take some time out over these next few days — as we hurtle towards Christmas — find the silence, the stillness… and be with God.


Be brave, be quiet, be still. In the quietness of the waiting, be still — that you may be ready for the coming of the child, the one whom we celebrate at this time of year, the one who can change lives.


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This is an edited version of a sermon by Sandy Walker at Zetland Park Methodist on December 10th 2023


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