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Advent 2C Sermon
3: 1-6
December 5, 2021

Sermon Archives


Luke 3:1-6

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, 2during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, 4as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah,
‘The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.
5 Every valley shall be filled,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth;
6 and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”

May the grace, mercy and peace of God be with us in the name of our risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ; Amen.

About a month ago I experienced something for the first time in my life called, “Aldi’s Advent Calendar Release Day.” Each year on the first Wednesday of November the grocery giant releases a number of Advent calendars in their stores and people line up to get them. I am sure you have had the calendars that has a door for each day of December. When you open up the doors you see an image with a short scripture passage; I would venture to guess that you may have even had the ones that contained a small piece of chocolate behind the door for each day. Aldi’s sells the chocolate calendars, but they have many, many more. The wine advent calendar, for example, is more like an Advent Case, a box containing 24 mini bottles of wine behind each door. These are limited to two per customer, and I found myself gladly accepted two vouchers while I stood in line for a half-hour before entering the store to guarantee that I could get a couple. After all, each year my son brings us home a beer Advent calendar from Carfagna’s, where he works, and we enjoy sharing the beverage with each other each day of December leading up to Christmas. Surely, I could give two to family members or friends this year to enjoy.
I was also able to pick up a calendar with a doggie treat behind each door for Foxy, though we have discovered that the treats (made from salmon and sweet potato) are too hard for most dogs to chew. I got a Lego’s calendar for our two young godsons which, at the end of Advent, will build a little Christmas village. I even got a coffee one for myself, with a different individual Kuerig-style coffee behind each door.

The one I was really interested in, though, was the cheese Advent calendar. This sounded good and as a cheese lover, it was the one I wanted most. The only problem was, there were no vouchers or limits to the number of cheese calendars a person could buy, and by the time I got back to the cooler where they were stored, the doors were wide open, shelves were empty, and the last of the people who had four or five of them in their arms were walking away. Dang, I was shut out on the precious cheese Advent calendars! I must admit, the whole scene was a bit of a madhouse - I heard one lady on the phone saying that it was mayhem in the store! Well … it was not like a typical 9:00 am Wednesday at Aldi’s, and people were crowding around these items like they were the cure for cancer itself, but I wouldn’t call it mayhem.

A thought went through my mind as I left with my coveted items: what do these people even know about Advent? To be sure, anyone can count down the days until Christmas by opening a door and getting a treat for the day, but there is absolutely no faith connection to these calendars. None have scripture verses, or a description of Advent or even anything having to do with Christmas, outside of the secular celebration. As far as I am concerned, Aldi could sell calendars that count down the days of July and they would have the same effect on most of the people who purchase them.

As a devotional item, though, an Advent calendar is just one tool to help us to prepare for the coming of our savior. Any advent calendar - from the simple windows with pictures & scripture, to those having beer, wine or seltzer, can help to remind us that we are journeying toward something … toward an event to which we look forward with much anticipation and expectation. And that along with the Advent wreath, advent devotionals, our Advent hymns, prayers, scripture and worship, they can help to prepare the way of the Lord.

Luke tells us that the people of Jesus’ time had a person to prepare the way of the Lord. He quotes the prophet Isaiah in the 40th chapter as he describes this person, who’s name is John. We have but a brief introduction to John this week, and we will hear more from him and about him next week, but today we get a little background on who he is - the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, every mountain and hill made low - the crooked straight and the rough ways smooth so that all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” John’s father, the priest Zecheria, knew what his son was about to do. We shared his words in our psalmody today - “You, my child, shall be called a prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way; to give God’s people knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins.”

It was common knowledge that the Messiah would have a herald, a prophet like Elijah, who comes before him. In the book of the prophet Malachi, from where our first lesson came this morning and the final book of the Old Testament, the very last verse reads, “Lo, I will send you the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of parents to their children and hearts of children to their parents, so that I will not come and strike the land with a curse.” The one who prepares the way is vitally important because he eliminates the obstacles between God and God’s people, and turns our hearts to care for each other so that we - all flesh - can experience the joy of pure love that we know comes in the presence of the messiah.

I am not sure I will ever take part in the event known as, “The Release of Aldi’s Advent Calendars” on the first Wednesday of November ever again. I am sure that there will be more advent calendars - some with chocolate … wine … beer … maybe even cheese. But I do know that when John shows up each year, proclaiming a baptism for the repentance of sins, I pay attention. And I know that we have this gift called, “Advent,” in our faith toolbox which reminds us each year that (just as he came in the guise of a small baby thousands of years ago) Jesus is coming … and if anything helps you to keep that central in your mind this time each year - a special devotional … gathering around a wreath and lighting candles … opening doors on a calendar to count down the days … then that is great. And we also have John - who is born of an elderly woman named Elizabeth who was thought to be barren, to a family where both parents are from priestly lines. This guy is special, and it is he who we should be lining up to hear as he prepares the way for all flesh to experience the salvation of God through Jesus Christ. Amen.