|Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year B||March 18, 2012||Sermon, Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year B||Numbers 21:4-9, Ephesians 2:1-10, John 3:14-21|
|Third Sunday in Lent, Year B||March 11, 2012||Third Sunday in Lent, Year B||Exodus 20:1-17; Psalm 19; 1 Corinthians 1:18-25; John 2:13-22|
|Second Sunday in Lent, Year B||March 4, 2012||Second Sunday in Lent, Year B||Mark 8:31-38|
|Sermon, First Sunday in Lent, Year B||February 26, 2012||First Sunday in Lent, Year B||Genesis 9:8-17, I Peter 3:18-22, Mark 1: 9-15|
|Ash Wednesday Service, Feb 22, 2012||February 22, 2012||Ash Wednesday||Joel 2:1-2, 12-17|
|Last Sunday After Epiphany, Year B||February 19, 2012||Last Sunday after Epiphany||2 Kings 2:1-12, Psalm 50:1-6, 2 Corinthians 4:3-6, Mark 9:2-9|
|Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||February 12, 2012||Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||1 Corinthians 9:24-27, Mark 1: 40-45|
|Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||February 5, 2012||Fifth Sunday after Epiphany, Year B||Isaiah 40:21-31, Mark 1:29-39|
|Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||January 29, 2012||Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||I Corinthians 8:1-13; Mark 1:21-28|
|Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||January 22, 2012||Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||Mark 1:14-20|
|Second Sunday After The Epiphany, Year B||January 15, 2012||Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||1 Samuel 3:1-20; Psalm 139: 1-5, 12-17; John 1:43-51|
|First Sunday After The Epiphany, Year B||January 8, 2012||First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B||Mark 1:4-11|
|Sermon on Joy, Epiphany, 2012||January 6, 2012||Epiphany||Matthew 2:1-12|
|Christmas Day, Dec. 25, 2011||December 25, 2011||Christmas Day, 2012||Isaiah 9:2-7; Luke 2:1-20|
|Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, 2011||December 24, 2011||The Eve of the Nativity of our Lord||Luke 2:1-20|
Second Sunday in Advent
Sermon Date:December 4, 2011
Scripture: Isaiah 40:1-11; Psalm 85; 2 Peter 3:8-15a; Mark 1:1-8
Liturgy Calendar: Second Sunday in Advent, Year B
I have a question for you.
Does God forget and abandon us in the wilderness?
“Wilderness” is one of those Biblical terms that occurs throughout the Old and the New Testaments. The Israelites wandered through the wilderness for forty years after having been led out of Egypt by God’s mighty arm.
After his baptism, the Spirit immediately drove Jesus into the wilderness, where he spent forty days, being tempted by Satan, before Satan left him and the angels came and waited on him.
In today’s gospel reading, people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were leaving behind the safety of their familiar surroundings. They went out into the wilderness to confess their sins and to be baptized by John the baptizer.
The wilderness of the Holy Land consists of barren, rocky ground, no shade, hot sun beating down, a trackless moonscape of barrenness.
In this wilderness, getting lost is easy.
And that’s why the idea, this metaphor, of wilderness is so powerful for us today.
Many, many people have experienced an economic wilderness over the past few years, when the familiar comfort of having adequate resources has been taken away.
And in our current economy, trying to find a way back to comfort is like wandering through a trackless wasteland, with no landmarks for guidance.
As our bodies begin to age, and to fail, we find ourselves in a wilderness of medical issues, wandering through endless tests, doctor’s appointments, medications, and at the end of the day—we find that we are still in a wilderness of physical discomfort.
Death also drives us into a wilderness—an unfamiliar barren, trackless territory where we are alone, missing the familiar companionship of the one we have lost. And now we find that without that person, we too are lost.
In the wilderness, that question I asked at the beginning of this sermon paces through our spirits like a wild beast waiting to devour us.
“God, have you forgotten me?” “Have you abandoned me?”
One of the great gifts of this season of Advent is the opportunity to focus on this question through the scripture we have been given today, and to see how we might apply the scripture to our own wilderness situations.
In the sublime poetry of the passage from Isaiah that we have just heard, the prophet tells us that the almighty God comes to us with power.
“Here is your God!” the prophet proclaims.
See, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him; his reward is with him.
But God is not only the God of power and might, who controls the sweep of the history of creation.
Isaiah also tells us that God will feed us like a shepherd, that God will gather us in his arms and tenderly carry us.
But for those of us in the wilderness, this description of God can seem like nothing but a beautiful painting of something that we only gaze at, an experience that we can only imagine and that we will never experience first hand.
But the good news that I am bringing you today is that yes, even in the wilderness, especially in the wilderness, God will gather us in his arms and tenderly carry us.
One of the great gifts of our Christian faith is prayer.
And this gift of prayer can frequently be like a gift we get at Christmas. We open the gift, and it’s lovely, and we admire it, and then we put it on a shelf, or tuck it back in the box so it won’t get broken, and we end up never using it, and worse yet, forgetting that we received it at all.
But prayer is essential if we are to experience for ourselves that God is actually in the wilderness with us.
Isaiah cries out this good news!
“In the wilderness, prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”
The good news is that God is coming to us through the wilderness.
And please notice that this preparation does not involve road building on our part.
The highway on which God will come to us through the trackless wastes of our wilderness is one that God prepares.
“Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low, and the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed.”
We are not doing these things—all of these things will be done.
We have one task and one task only, and that is “to make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”
That’s what happens in prayer. We make a straight highway for God to come to us.
And the way in which we do that is very simple.
We wait for God with expectation.
We wait in prayer.
This sort of expectant prayer is the simplest prayer of all —and yet it seems so complicated and so hard to do in our hurry up, demanding culture.
So during this season of Advent, I encourage you to practice this way of praying, to prepare in your wilderness a highway for God to come to you.
Set aside some uninterrupted time—you can start with as little as ten minutes. And if you find you can’t do this every day, then try to do it a few times a week.
And then, prepare the way of the Lord.
Wait on the Lord in silence. No conversation—just silent waiting.
As James puts it in his letter—James 4:8,
Draw near to God by waiting on God.
And God will draw near to you.
When we wait on God, especially in the wilderness, God takes the rough places in our lives and smoothes those places out. Those mountains that seem too high for us to climb, God will level them—
Those valleys of depression, so low and so dark, God will raise them up.
And he will feed his flock like a shepherd, and gather his lambs in his arms, and carry us. God will comfort us in the wilderness.
The psalmist defines comfort for us in Psalm 85.
Comfort is when we are in right relationship with God and with each other, when “righteousness and peace have kissed each other.”
When we wait on God in prayer, God will bring us into right relationship with God, and with one another. And when we are in right relationship with God, we can comfort one another.
God grants us peace, even in the most chaotic and disruptive times in our lives.
This is the comfort that Peter describes in his letter.
“Therefore, beloved, while you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by him at peace, without spot or blemish.” When we wait on God in prayer, we open ourselves to the gift of God’s restoring peace.
This season of Advent is the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
And the promise of this season of Advent for us is that through patient waiting in prayer, God will come to us,
The God of might,
Who comes to us as a tiny baby born of the Virgin Mary,
A baby who will grow into a boy—
The boy who will became a man who spends his own time in the wilderness and who is our good shepherd, the One who longs to gather us in his arms and to carry us gently through the wilderness when we are lost and forsaken.