Second Sunday in Advent
Passage: Mark 1:1–1:8
†††In the Name of Jesus†††
Pastor Murray Keith
Text: Mark 1:1-8
Date: December 10th, 2017; Advent 2; Series B
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
During the season of Advent we prepare for, and anticipate, Christ Jesus entering into the wilderness of this world.
On that first Christmas he took on our flesh and was born of the virgin Mary - to save us.
We give thanks to God that our Lord continues to enter into the wilderness through his Word and Sacraments - through which he delivers to us his gift of salvation. Through which he saves us.
We prepare for, and anticipate, his final coming on the Last Day when our waiting for the new heavens and new earth will come to an end and our salvation will be fully complete.
The Book of Hebrews tells us that “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son” (Hebrews 1:1–2).
God’s speaking in the Old Testament - from the first promise that God made to Adam and Eve, down through the patriarchs and prophets - it all leads to the great preacher of Advent, John the Baptist.
Standing there in the Judean wilderness with one foot in the Old Testament and the other in the New, John is that voice crying in the wilderness - spoken of by the prophet Isaiah centuries before.
He does not preach about himself - but of the coming One, Christ Jesus.
He cries out in the wilderness to prepare the way of the Lord.
And John prepares the way of the Lord by calling people to repent of their sin, their darkness - that they receive God’s forgiveness and light given through Jesus.
Sin is what caused Adam and Eve to be exiled to life in the wilderness. Sin is what caused separation between God and those he created in his image.
Adam and Eve exchanged a tranquil life in the garden of Eden for a harsh one in the wilderness - all because they wanted to become like God.
Instead of enjoying peace and harmony as God intended - there was jealousy and hatred. We see this clearly when Cain murdered his brother Abel.
Instead of health and vitality there was pain, injury, and suffering.
Instead of the abundant life that God intended when he created us - there is death in the wilderness.
The dust from which Adam was taken finally claimed him back.
And so it will be for all of us.
Yet, there is the promise of Genesis 3:15, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heal.”
Right after the fall into sin, right after Adam and Eve were exiled to the wilderness, God proclaims the promise of the One who would lead them back to the Promised Land.
This is the first promise of the Gospel, and through it, God began to prepare the way for the promised Messiah.
He continued to prepare the way by sending prophets who, throughout the ages, warned people to turn from their sin, to call people to repentance.
But, with the words of warning, the prophets were also sent with Good News.
They were sent to proclaim the good news that this time in the wilderness is only temporary.
In his mercy, God has provided a way out of the wilderness through his Son.
We heard these words of promise in our reading from Isaiah, “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for…” (Isaiah 40:1-2).
Sin exiled Adam and Eve, and all of us, to life in the wilderness where we say and do things that cause each other harm, where our bodies get injured, and sick, and suffer, and die.
But God says, “Comfort, comfort my people - [your] sin has been paid for.”
Our sin has been paid - for which means the separation between us and God has been removed and our time in the wilderness will come to an end.
When the fullness of time had come, God sent John the Baptist into the wilderness to prepare the way for the Christ - who is the fulfillment of our salvation.
Wilderness brings back not only memories of a lost Eden, but also of the children of Israel wandering in the wilderness around Sinai for a forty-year-long Advent season, as God prepared them to enter the Promised Land.
Because of our sin, we too have been exiled to the wilderness.
Not in the desert around Sinai or the wild haunts around the Jordan, but here in the wilderness of our own sin and unfaithfulness to God, in the arid places where we attempt to go it alone, to live as if God didn’t matter and we mattered most.
John the Baptist proclaims repentance.
He announces that you have no future in the wilderness. There is no exit, no way of escape without God’s gift of salvation.
Being on your own in the wilderness only leads to death.
John points us to where truth and life are found - he points away from himself to Christ Jesus - who is the way, the truth, and the life!
John the Baptist stepped into the wilderness to point the way, preaching repentance and the forgiveness of sins. That voice is still ringing out here, now, today.
Repent of your sin.
Hear God’s words, “Comfort, comfort, my people…”
Be comforted by the promise that your sin has been paid for by the blood of Jesus and God will lead us out of the wilderness into the Promised Land where will we enjoy eternal life as he always intended it. Come Lord Jesus! Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.