Saturday, December 8, 2012

Sinai's Last Thunder

Saint John the Baptist preaching in the Wilderness, Mola
  • Malachi 3:1-4
  • Luke 1:68-79
  • Philippians 1:3-11
  • Luke 3:1-6
Prayer of the Day Stir up our hearts, Lord God, to prepare the way of your only Son. By his coming give to all the people of the world knowledge of your salvation; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

* * *


What are we going to do with John the Baptist? John is one of the most vividly drawn characters in Scripture and each Advent we come face to face with him again. The four Gospels show us that Jesus’ public work began in the context of John’s ministry, and this text from Luke summarizes it well.
  • John lived in the wilderness.
  • John was a prophet to whom the Word of the Lord came.
  • Like the Hebrew prophets who came before him, John preached repentance, urging Israel to turn back to God.
  • John complemented his preaching with the prophetic action of baptism.
  • John came to fulfill God’s promise given through the prophet Isaiah -- he came to prepare the way for the coming of the Lord, who was about to arrive, bringing salvation to his people.
How should we approach today’s description of John the Baptist? One way would be to discuss the theological words in this Gospel lesson. Note the rich, profound concepts that are meaningful to our faith: the Word of God, the wilderness, baptism, repentance, the forgiveness of sins, God’s promises through the prophets, the coming of the Lord, God’s salvation. We could meditate on these rich words and concepts this morning.

Another way we could approach John would be to try and understand the historical context of his ministry. Luke seems especially interested in that -- did you hear how he carefully fills in the historical details about people and places that formed the social, political, and religious context for John? We could talk about why he appeared in the wilderness and why he baptized in the Jordan River and what that would have symbolized for the Jewish people. We could discuss Israel’s relationship with the Romans who ruled over them at that time, the Jews’ continuing sense of being a people in exile, and how John was raised up to address that situation.

There are many ways to approach a text as rich as this one. Today, I’d like to look at it from a close and personal angle. You see, I have an idea that John the Baptist is not a person I would like very much. And I doubt that most of you would care for him either. I’m quite sure he would not be welcomed with enthusiasm in most of our churches today.

Second Sunday in Advent (C)
December 9, 2012

Children's Message: "Henry Goes the Wrong Way"

(Prop: a world globe)

There once was a duck named Henry. He lived in Australia. That's on the other side of the world from where we live.

Can you see it here on the globe? This is the earth, and we in the United States live in the north -- up here -- and Australia is in the south -- down here. If you live on the other side of the world, some things are backwards. Did you know that?

For example, it is just about winter here in the north, and we have Christmas in the winter. Sometimes it snows and it gets cold. But in the south, their winter is like our summer! They have Christmas at a time when it gets warm and sunny. Then, when we have summer and it gets hot, their summer is when it gets cold. Isn't that crazy!

Well, Henry lived in the south, in Australia. One day he was walking down the street in town and he saw a store that had some TV's in the window. He went in the store and watched the TV's because there was a show about ducks on!

It was a nature show and the person in it was talking about how, when the weather gets cold, ducks fly SOUTH to warm places. 

It was almost summer in Australia, and that's when it gets cold there, so Henry's family and friends were all getting ready to leave for the warm places. But something was funny. They were all talking about flying NORTH to the where it would be warm. Henry couldn't believe his ears. The TV said ducks fly SOUTH in the winter.

So Henry started arguing with his friends, and even with his parents and teachers. "Ducks fly SOUTH to the warm places!" he insisted. 

Henry was so sure they were about to make a big mistake that when the morning came to leave, Henry flew off all by himself in the opposite direction. All day long Henry flew south and the next day as well. But the farther south Henry went, the colder it was getting and all the other ducks that Henry saw all seemed to be heading north. 

Soon Henry was lost and cold and worried. He didn't see any other ducks. They had all flown NORTH!

Finally, Henry realized that he had made a big mistake and so he turned around and started flying north. The problem was, it was going to take Henry two days just to get back to where he’d started from and he knew that the other ducks would be long gone. He wasn’t sure how he was ever going to find his mother and father and all the other ducks he knew. 

But Henry flew and flew and finally found his way to a lake in the north where the other ducks had flown. Henry's friends laughed and said, "We told you so, Henry!" 

Henry’s mother and father were very cross with him for flying off but they gave him a big hug and told him they were glad he was safe and that they’d been very worried for him. 

Henry was sad that he had gone the wrong way, but was glad he had turned around in time before he got too cold and lost.

Then everyone, including Henry, enjoyed a warm summer in the north until they flew south again for the winter.

Based on: Henry Heads the Wrong Way