This is a sermon for the second Sunday in Advent. I preached it in 2009.
“Jesus is Coming. Look Busy.”
Malachi 3:1-4, Luke 3:1-6
December 6, 2009
Second Sunday of Advent
First Christian Church
I don’t watch as much television as I used to, but when I do I tend to like a lot of the reality television shows. I have been an avid fan of “Top Chef” for years. But the one that I have really enjoyed over time is the series, “What Not to Wear.” For those of you who don’t know, the show consists of two hosts who go around the country finding people who are terrible dressers. They ambush them at their place of work and then they have to watch video of their clothing choices. Then they are flown to New York with their wardrobe. It’s there that the hosts, basically pick apart their clothing style and throw out the old wardrobe.
Then the contestant is sent shopping with “rules” on what to buy. This is the interesting part because this is where we can see some resistance. Some people take a while to get used to new ways of dressing and for some this is an emotional journey.
After a new hairstyle and some makeup tips, the contestant is presented to her friends and family with her new clothing style. At the end of the show, we learn that went on was not simply a change of clothing, but an internal change. People who were ashamed of their bodies, learned to love and accept themselves. It can be a rough road for these contestants, but in the end, it seemed to be worth it.
One more note. The two hosts tend to be somewhat biting in the comments. But that’s nothing. “What Not To Wear” is an American version of a British television show of the same name and I can tell you that the two British hosts are far more brutal.
When we think of this time of year, we are usually thinking of angels and shepherds, babies in mangers and stars at night. It’s supposed to be a time of peace and good cheer. At least that is what we are taught to believe. But Advent is not simply a time of waiting and it isn’t always a time of good feelings. It is also a time of preparation. “Prepare the Way of the Lord,” is what we hear during this time of the year. It should fill us with happiness that hope is on the way. But if we should also feel a bit of apprehension, because when God comes, playtime is over.
The prophet Malachi talks about a messenger of the Lord that will come to prepare the people for God’s coming. The way Malachi talks makes one wonder if the people hearing this message would be eager to roll out the welcome wagon. This messenger would be a like a “refiner’s fire or fuller’s soap.” None of this sounds nice.
Then we read Luke which talks about John the Baptist. Here is a man that comes from the wilderness and then preaches that God is going to fill the valleys, straighten the crooked roads, level the mountains and then after all that save all of creation. And just to make sure we get the message, John castigates those who come to the baptism of repentance. He isn’t interested in people doing this for show; he wanted people to change their ways and their hearts. Playtime was over.
What does this all mean? None of this seems like it fits with the whole Advent-Christmas thing. Isn’t God supposed to be about love and all?
Well, God is about love, but not in the way we like to think. God wants to heal all of creation. But that means that we are going to have to change. God comes and examines us and cuts out all the bad habits to make a people of God. It’s like what a friend has said to me: “God accepts you just as you are, but loves you enough to not leave you that way.”
What we are talking about here is discipleship. It is about learning how to be a people of God. It is about taking our faith seriously and not for granted.
What do you think these texts have to do with First Christian in its current situation? I do think this time in our life as a faith community is a time of pruning and preparation. It’s time of learning about what it means to be church and letting go of bad practices and things that have become idols. It might mean taking risks and leaving the familiar. It could mean realizing ways we have not welcomed the stranger. I don’t know what it might mean. But I do know that this time of refinement could make us a stronger and more faithful community. That’s the thing about God coming with a refiner’s fire, we can end up better than we were.
Back in the 90s, I remember seeing a bumper sticker that said “Jesus is Coming. Look busy.” Being someone that enjoys sarcasm, I can say that I totally loved that sticker. But there is something about that sticker that conveys a truth. In someways, we want to “look busy” for God. But God is not interested in us playing games. God wants us to be busy preaching and doing justice and loving those we meet.
Advent is a time of preparation and expectation for Jesus. But it is also a time of “winter cleaning.” It’s time to examine ourselves and let God refine us, and make us more and more like Christ.
When Jesus comes, it’s not an easy thing. It can be quite hard to deal with. But the end result makes it all worth it. Thanks be to God. Amen.