In The Season of Advent

One of the selected readings from the Revised Common Lectionary for the second week of the Advent comes from Matthew 3.1-12.  This is the story of John the Baptist preaching in the Judean wilderness to prepare the way for the coming Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth.

The preaching of John the Baptist called upon people to “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near” (v.2).  He was so insistent on the need for repentance that he even told the Pharisees and Sadducees to “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (v.8) and baptized people for the purpose of repentance.

As we look forward to the Christmas holiday that is to remind us of the coming of Jesus, the Advent season is a time of preparation for that coming.  John the Baptist sought to prepare people for the coming of Jesus by calling them to repentance.  I believe we need to pause some during a holiday season that has over the years become increasingly hectic and commercialized to ask ourselves from what was John the Baptist calling people to repent.  What is so significant about that call to repentance and the coming of Jesus.

One of my favorite traditional “Christmas” hymns is John S Dwight’s O Holy Night.  The third stanza of the hymn reads:

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
His power and glory ever more proclaim!

I believe this is why John the Baptist came calling people to repentance.  Repentance is the only way to begin living out the life Jesus came to give us which is spoken of so eloquently in this beloved hymn.

May the blessings of God the Father in Heaven be upon us as we, by the power of the Holy Spirit, strive to live out this penitent life that Jesus, the Son of God came to give us!

6 responses to “In The Season of Advent

  1. A few years ago, the minister at my parents’ congregation was preaching on this passage at this time of year (he likes to preach from the lectionary). He started the sermon by saying that he wasn’t going to be able to send Christmas cards to everyone, so he had made a PowerPoint card.

    The first slide: Merry Christmas…
    The second slide: …you brood of vipers!

    Surely the shock factor made them listen to the sermon. I agree that the theme of repentance is appropriate this time of year.

    Grace and peace,
    Tim Archer

  2. The Magnificat is pretty challenging, especially to those in power. No wonder many churches edit part out or skip it altogether.

    By the way, do you use the Revised Common Lectionary as a guide to sermon planning? I did for a while in New Mexico, but never made it public that’s what I was doing. The treasurer saw it on my desk one day and lectured me about becoming “liberal.”

    • I have never used it as a regular practice for sermon planning but that is because there has always been other pastoral and missional needs that determined what I preached. I think it would be great sometime to spend a year preaching through the suggested readings but I also like to plan a series of sermon based upon a theme (e.g., “Christmas Reimagined”…3 sermons from Matthew 1.18-2.23) or just preaching through a book of the Bible.

      And I’m sorry but the treasure who warned you about becoming liberal was just clueless.

      Grace and Peace,


  3. Pingback: In the Season of Advent |

  4. Appreciate your thoughts! I reposted this.



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