Roger's Postings

Friday, December 08, 2017

Mark 1:1-8.                                         Necessary preparation!!                                               10/12/17

(1)  The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. {2} It is written in Isaiah the prophet: "I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way"-- {3} "a voice of one calling in the desert, 'Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.'" {4} And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. {5} The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. {6} John wore clothing made of camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. {7} And this was his message: "After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. {8} I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."

Well here we are in the midst of another Advent season: Another year of preparation for Christmas; of things to do and be a part of, and be distracted by. On top of that it seems as though we have just come from last Christmas, as the days and years keep flying by. So, we get caught up in going with the routine of life, without really thinking too much about what it really is all about. We simply do what we have to without a lot of thought as to what it really is all about.

It is here in the midst of all of this that we are reminded of Christ's coming into our world to help us: to rescue us from the hopelessness and sin that we face in this world, and to save us from an eternity in Hell. Along with that reminder of God coming to be with us and rescuing us, is that call to prepare ourselves for his coming. We are to get ready for not just ‘Christmas’, but for the Lord's coming.

But so often it is here that we switch off. We have got enough to think about: enough to be involved in; without having to do anything about our own spiritual house. Yes, we know it is important, but later on; next year; some time. But not now! As for more preparations - what next! We have got enough on our minds already! Then we wonder why Christmas and Christianity has lost its meaning for us.

Now look, if you were going to go on a trip around Australia, you very much know that you have to prepare carefully: The vehicle and caravan to be checked over thoroughly and packed with everything necessary for whatever might happen; and many other things. None of us would even remotely have thought of doing all of this the day before. We all would be getting prepared and organised well ahead of time.

The same goes for you ladies - with Christmas coming up and knowing that you are having a house full over Christmas, and as busy as you are with everything else: how many of you still wouldn't take great pains to getting the house tidy and lots of other preparations done. I am sure for many of you, you would have sleepless nights before letting any of those things go undone. And I could go on with many other examples as well.

But when we are reminded of Christ's coming to us, I wonder if the same priority is given to our preparations for him. Now if you knew Jesus was coming - for real this Christmas, and that he was going to come and spend some time with you personally: that he would then go with you as you go about your everyday life as a real life person. What sorts of changes and preparations would take place in your life; as busy as you are with whatever?

For instance, would you be happy with; or more importantly would our Lord be happy with, some of the language you use; or the business deals you do; or the little white lies you tell; or perhaps your missing Church on Sunday morning because it is only a reading service or because you have got a game of sport to play, or you want to do some cooking for some other friends who are coming to lunch. If the Lord Jesus were standing alongside you everyday, wouldn't there be some changes take place in the things you say, do or think?        I'm sure there would be.

Yes, if we knew for sure Jesus was coming to us this Christmas, I am sure many of us would have a dramatic change of heart. We would have a different attitude toward, who and what, was important in life: Our priorities and lifestyles in many cases would be considerably different. The importance and greatness of our Lord and what he has to say to us would become a far greater priority to our everyday life than it is at present. Yes, to know that he is coming to be with us for real, would mean for all us that there would be great changes to our lives.

Now of course we know John the Baptist’s message was that Jesus is coming. Christmas also reminds us of his coming into our world to be with his people. Here we need to remember that is a past event - in other words - Christ has come: he has entered our world. But he also has given us the promise that he is with us now, always: that his Spirit is with us now and every day of our lives. Yes, that is right: The Lord Jesus is now with you and goes with you as you live, work and play, every day. He is with you even though you may not be able to see him.

Woops! Yes, he is with us for real every day. Also remember that reading we had a few weeks ago, where we were reminded that Jesus is there in the hungry, thirsty, sick and imprisoned. At the same time wherever there is another Christian, there also stands the Lord Jesus Christ. As well, we have the baptismal font and the Lord’s Supper as constant reminders that our Lord is with us every day; that he is always near at hand.

So yes, in light of what was said earlier, woops! We have mucked up, rather badly haven't we? As the OT reading suggested; ‘we are like grass,’ and our own glory has again faded and deserted us. We are again brought to the realization that on our own we are in big trouble, because we ignore God's presence with us again and again: that we fail over and over again. The present world crisis is further evidence of this.

But in coming to this realization that we have failed, we are again turned away from ourselves to the Lord Jesus, and given hope for the future. In our failures, our lives are re-directed back to where they should be. Our thoughts are turned back to the Gospel: back to the Good News of Jesus Christ and his death and resurrection: back to the importance of God for all of life. We are reminded of our baptism for the forgiveness of sins, and that there, all of our failings and all sin is washed clean, and that we are made a member of God’s family.

So, having that assurance of the absolute certainty of forgiveness, we can go forward again to live and be the people that God would have us be. We are reminded also, that at our baptism God's Spirit enters our lives and goes with us always to help, guide and direct us in our living as his people; but in particular he is there constantly seeking to point us to the Lord Jesus Christ and his presence and activity in our lives: and that all of this is more important than our money, material possessions and earthly pleasures.

Here remember also that John is hinting quite strongly that this Jesus is truly the great one in life. He is more important than anything else in life. Alongside of which we are completely unworthy to be in his presence. As John says we are not even worthy of untying his shoelaces. Yet he comes into our world to lift us up and make us worthy once more to be in his presence.

So, this repentance – this preparation for the coming of Jesus, entails us turning away from our inward focus on our own lives. We have and are nothing that enables us to be in his presence. So, we turn away from ourselves to the help and hope that this great one has to offer. So, our Christmas preparation entails turning away from ourselves and our self-centredness. It is the earnest desire to receive the only help and hope that we really have in this life: Jesus Christ and the forgiveness and hope that he extends to us.

That is the message of Christmas: God come to be with us and to save us: to live with us and bring eternal life to us. Surely that has to be the best thing that has ever, and can ever, happen to us.  There we have something that is really special: a real Christmas gift. A truly great guest comes into our lives, homes and communities. Now if that is not more important than shrinking finances, the Christmas dinner, sport or anything else, then I don't know what. That would surely have to be the best thing that could ever happen in our lives.

And since it has happened to us - that Christ is with us – let us go out from here and make this Advent season what it is intended to be: a time of preparation – of, in a sense, a cleaning up of our spiritual house; of remembering that which is truly important in life. And in particular of a re-focussing of our hearts, minds and lives on the Lord Jesus Christ; and a re-affirming of the importance and reality of his presence and activity in everything we say and do. It is there that we will find the real joy of Christmas and the peace and goodwill that we all need.

So, I pray that our gracious Lord will be with you and go with you now and always. AMEN.

Pastor Roger Atze

Glandore/Underdale Lutheran Parish


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