“In Preparation – 2”

This is the devotion that I presented on Saturday morning for the 2nd Sunday in Advent (8 December 2012) at Grannie Annie’s Kitchen. I used the lectionary readings (Malachi 3: 1 – 4, Philippians 1: 3 – 11, and Luke 3: 1 – 6) as the basis for the devotion. We also tried something this morning with Mo Orozco reading the passage from Luke in both English and Spanish; I want to thank Mo for his help as we seek to build a bi-lingual ministry at Grace.  My notes for the 2nd and 3rd Sunday of Advent will be posted sometime this weekend.

We begin this week by lighting the 1st candle of the Advent Wreath, the candle of hope.

Luke speaks of John the Baptist who went around Israel telling people to repent of their sins and begin anew. Luke wrote of every path being made smooth, of their being no detours on the road to Salvation.

This doesn’t mean that life becomes easier when one follows Christ. In fact, it is probably a harder life. The other day I was speaking with someone about the nature of Christianity today and how many people feel that if they do certain things a certain number of times, they will earn enough “points” to get into Heaven. But that isn’t what gets you into heaven and you cannot “buy” your way into heaven. Good works are nice but not if you are doing them for your own personal gain. If you are not leading a life that reflects the love that Christ had for us, all that you do will have no meaning in the end. Second, when you do something in this manner, it is entirely possible to do it without emotion and in an almost mechanical manner; what kind of life is one where everything is almost robot-like?

When John the Baptizer and Jesus spoke of repentance, they weren’t telling the people to say that they were sorry. Repentance is not an apology to God or others; it is a change in one’s life. It comes with the realization that one is headed in the wrong direction and that you have to stop whatever you are doing and change the direction of your life.

When we first opened Grannie Annie’s Kitchen some two years ago we had to tell everyone to leave their baggage outside the building. Remember, though this place is a kitchen, it is still part of a church and the baggage of the outside world has no place here. Repentance means, to some extend, to drop all of that baggage that is holding you back and leave it behind.

The Baptizer spoke of the one who was to come, who would change lives. The prophet Malachi said that this individual, this Messiah, would be

like white-hot fire from the smelter’s furnace. He’ll be like the strongest lye soap at the laundry. He’ll take his place as a refiner of silver, as a cleanser of dirty clothes. He’ll scrub the Levite priests clean, refine them like gold and silver, until they’re fit for God, fit to present offerings of righteousness. Then, and only then, will Judah and Jerusalem be fit and pleasing to God, as they used to be in the years long ago.

Now some, locked into today’s world view, would say that the Messiah will have a mighty army and will defeat the forces of darkness on some great plain. But we are preparing for a child to be born; how can a child lead a great army? How can one who will be called the Prince of Peace lead a great army?

Repentance requires that we change our way of thinking. To accept Christ is to accept a new life, a life based on hope, love, joy, and peace. It means giving up the ways of the world, of finding solutions through violence and greed; it means doing things because they need to be done, not because you will receive some great reward.

It means working for peace and justice in this world. The second candle of the Advent Wreath is always a different color. On our wreath, it symbolizes peace and it has to stand out in a world that often wants to hide it. We have lit the light of hope; now we light the candle of peace. In a world so often darkened by the worst of mankind, let this light of peace shine so that we can see and prepare for a new life in Christ.

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