Sunday, December 10, 2017

"Clear The Road " Sermon for SUNDAY, December 10, 2017 - 2nd Sunday in Advent

The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of  God.As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,’” John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
~ Mark 1:1-8

"Clear The Road"
Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen
How do we prepare for the Lord’s Coming? How did John prepare? How does the baptism of the Holy Spirit prepare us for His Coming? What do we need to clear out of our way back to God?

In ancient Rome the birthday of Emperors was proclaimed as good news. We too worship our politicians, but politics is not good news. Human beings boast great things, but in reality have no answers. The whole world is run by highly intelligent, very well-educated people who don't have a clue, because the real problems and their solutions are spiritual in nature, not carnal. Mark used familiar political language, but pointed to Christ not human political leaders. In contrast to this world's inability to solve its problems, “This is the Good News about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God” as it says in Mark 1:1. That is real good news.

Babylon defeated nations and forced subject kingdoms to pay heavy tributes. Jerusalem rebelled against Babylonian rule and so were deported to Babylon. The Babylonian Captivity or Exile was a period of time when most Jews were deported from their land to Babylon. It began around 597 BC and ended during the reign of the Persian King Cyrus the Great around 539 BC. Modern Judaism descends from these captives. They tried to preserve their faith like a ghetto in a strange culture. They became very conscientious in their faith taking it to extremes. Babylon symbolizes worldly wealth without God (Revelation 14:8; 16:19; 17:5; 18:1-2; 18:9-10; 18:21).

The message of Mark 1:2-3 begins in Isaiah 40:1-11. God instructs his angels to comfort his people, to reassure Jerusalem that her punishment will soon be over. Angels are building a road for us from Babylon to heavenly Jerusalem bringing exiles home. We are on a journey from Babylon on an angel highway back to God. Everything in this Babylon is fake news. Only one thing is true: God's Word. The bringer of good news cries out and announces God's triumphant return, like a warrior returning with power, bringing a reward with him. He gathers the little lambs of His flock into His arms and gently leads His sheep.

How many baptisms are there? Mark 1:4-5, 8 mentions a baptism of repentance, a baptism in the Jordan and a baptism of the Holy Spirit. Elsewhere we read of a baptism of fire, the baptism of water, the baptism of John, and baptism in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Baptism is like a washing (Acts 22:16) and a death (Romans 6:3-4). Jesus’ death on the cross was a baptism (Mark 10:38). Baptism is a spiritual circumcision (Colossians 2:11-15). Israel was baptized into Moses (1 Corinthians 10:2-5). However, there is essentially only one baptism (Ephesians 4:6) into Christ (Galatians 3:27).

Baptize literally means “to dip” but also non-literally we pass through the Red Sea (1 Corinthians 10:2), we wash dishes (Mark 7:4), Jesus was overwhelmed on the cross (Mark 10:38-39), the Old Testament contained ceremonial baptisms like sprinkling (Hebrews 9:10), and an outpouring of generosity is a baptism (Matthew 3:11). What does baptized in the Holy Spirit (Mark 1:8) mean? Baptized with the Holy Spirit, Jesus sacrificed for us. A commercialized Christmas hides the real meaning of following the Christ child. If we claim we have been baptized with the Holy Spirit and do not love by sacrificing for others, we are living a lie.

What do we need to clear out of our road back to heavenly Jerusalem? What do we need to clear out of the way for Christ to come? We have all been taken captive by Babylon. We have been deluded by the riches and glamour of an ungodly world. We have fallen into the world’s ways of wrong thinking and wrongdoing. Our Babylonian world is lost. He is coming to rescue us from Babylon and lead us on the road back to heavenly Jerusalem. Jesus said, I am the way. Are you coming?
God, grant me the grace to be patient and vigilant in watching, waiting, and listening attentively, so that I won't miss Christ when he comes knocking at my door. Remove whatever hinders me from receiving the gifts which the Savior brings — Joy, peace, justice, mercy, and love. And let me always remember that these are gifts that are only received by giving; let me remember, during this season and throughout the year, the downtrodden, the oppressed, the outcast, the prisoner, the weak, and the defenseless, with my prayers and with my substance. In the name of Christ I pray, Amen
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New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The New Revised Standard Version Bible may be quoted and/or reprinted up to and inclusive of five hundred (500) verses without express written permission of the publisher, provided the verses quoted do not amount to a complete book of the Bible or account for fifty percent (50%) of the total work in which they are quoted.

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