This morning we recall once again that Advent is a season of expectation and preparation .. perhaps we experience this more than we know in the secular rush to prepare for Christmas. Perhaps you feel you are well into the season of getting ready in a practical sense. But let me ask you where you are in a spiritual sense of preparation. How much time have you taken to pray and reflect in comparison to time spent in shops or putting up decorations?
If you are anything like me you will have done woefully less spiritual preparation than material wrapping and purchasing. If you answer the question honestly you will probably feel rather ashamed and sorry for your lack of Advent religion. If that’s the case let us ask John the Baptist what we should do about it. The herald we remember this week in Advent who came with a message to busy and greedy and selfish people like you and I ..
For John went into the desert and called any who were repentant to come and hear his call to make a straight path for Christ to visit you with love, joy and peace! John cried out .. yes you are a brood of vipers!! So bear fruits worthy of repentance.
Now I have said in previous weeks that in Advent our theme differs from Lent in that it is not so penitent or harrowing. Advent is not the main season of repentance however in the words of John the Baptist we recognise there is an element of forgiveness needed as we prepare for the coming Christ. Our preparations require being cleansed and renewed in our patient waiting faith. And so we are reminded of the call to Baptism.
So I invite you this morning to reflect on the vows which were made at your Baptism. And to be reminded this morning that these vows were not made once for all but must be prayed throughout our Christian journey. In fact we are given opportunities to renew our Baptism vows at various points in the Christian year and indeed should we ever be called into more formal service of some sort in the church. So at Easter or at Ordination or at the start of the New Year or indeed this morning in he Advent week of John the Baptist we are asked these questions once again:
Do you reject the devil and all rebellion against God?
Do you renounce the deceit and corruption of evil?
Do you repent of the sins that separate us from God and neighbour?
Do you turn to Christ as Saviour?
Do you submit to Christ as Lord?
Do you come to Christ, the way, the truth and the life?
These are the great questions of John the Baptist to the people of God in preparation of Christ’s message of love. In these questions we have a chance to repent and be renewed and refreshed in our faith before we embrace salvation.
It is important to understand that the questions do not hang over us this season in the same manner as during Lent. For in acknowledging our failings we are plunged into the knowledge of forgiveness and raised to new life out of the waters of renewal. The experience of Baptism is not just once for all but to be recalled whenever we need it in life. Whenever we fail or fall short we are reminded we are of a company of pilgrim people as the ritual of Baptism states ‘that within the company of Christ’s pilgrim people you may be daily renewed by his anointing Spirit & come to the inheritance of the saints in glory’.
This is John the Baptist’s message to us in our Advent preparations. We face the same challenge as those crowds who came to see him in the desert. He noted with them that ‘the people were in expectation’. What must we do to prepare and get ready they asked John. Come be Baptised in acknowledgement of your lack of readiness and need for repentance. Come be Baptised in water and the Spirit that you might be refreshed and renewed and made ready to meet the Saviour who is coming.
This morning, this week, let us be thankful for John’s message. Not one of condemnation but of opportunity. That where you feel inadequate and weak you might recall your Baptism vows which will allow you to be daily renewed by his anointing Spirit so that you with all Christ’s pilgrim people will come to the inheritance of the saints in Glory.
Let us be ready through repentance and renewal of our faith .. so we might pray with confidence Maranatha Come Lord Jesus.