Pastor Will's sermon for the 2nd Sunday of Advent, December 8, 2019
Read: Isaiah 11:1-10 and Matthew 3:1-12
So the headline, “How Elephants react to Dinosaurs” came across my news feed not too long ago. And so of course I couldn’t let that click-bait pass me by.
So I clicked…
And to be honest I was kind of let down.
I’m not sure what I was expecting, as if someone had real live footage of an Elephant hanging out with a real life Dinosaur. But it was just a video of elephants interacting with
plastic statues of Dinosaurs.
I mean, it was cute, but all the Elephant did was stick its trunk out and pop the plastic dinosaur on the head to see if it was real, and once they figured it out they moved along to whatever they had to do the rest of their day.
Of course that video lead me down the path of other cute animal video’s.
Which then lead me to reflect on today’s reading from Isaiah.
Which lead me back to reflecting on Elephants and big game animal hunting and the harsh reality that we live on a planet where animals (all animals, including humans) devour one another...
On this Second Sunday of Advent, the prophet Isaiah gives us some the most hope filled and yet seemingly unrealistic imagery you could ever come across in all the scriptures.
We do live in a world where the powerful prey on the weak,
Where the strong devour the vulnerable,
Where suffering and struggle are a part of the evolutionary process.
With this reality there is a restlessness within our souls and a longing for reality to be different.
It is within this counter cultural season of Advent that invites us to sit with this restlessness, to sit with and reflect upon our deep longings and desires.
And as we sit, and wait, and watch, and reflect, the prophets of Advent - Isaiah and John - share words that challenge us out of complacency and numbness and into a new hope that leads us forward with the promise that God is going to show up in the most unlikely and surprising places.
Right here in the midst of our present world, not only during these most holy of days where people get cut throat competing for parking places at shopping centers, but also in a world of political and environmental crises’…
In a world where we long for relief from pain and suffering, Isaiah sets this vision of unheard-of security in the natural world, with hyperbolic and almost humorous images of babies playing with snakes and vegetarian lion’s.
Isaiah shares there is a time on the horizon, and someOne in particular who is coming who will bring a new world order, a new structure to the universe when,
“the wolf will live with the lamb,
the leopard will lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion together…
the cow and the bear will graze together,
a baby will play near a vipers nest…
and a little child shall lead them.”
And a little child shall lead them
The season of Advent gives us some hope that a new day is dawning, that some One is on the way, that this instinct we have that things aren’t just quiet right, or that pain and suffering and injustice will not have the final word, is a longing and hunger that God understands.
The good news and mystery of Christmas is that the Creator of the Universe becomes flesh and blood for us, experiences pain and suffering and death, so that in some mysterious way - our pain, and suffering and death will be transformed into a new reality.
There’s a reason the cross is at the center of all we do as a community of faith.
And if Isaiah gets us feeling all warm and fuzzy for the holidays, well here comes that radical prophet of Advent, the original Aquaman - John the Baptizer.
A street preacher ready to get all up in our face.
John’s message isn’t that much different from Isaiah and even Jesus, it may come in a different package but the gift is still there.
"Get ready, prepare, repent… The Kingdom of God is Near"
To repent literally means to turn around and to head in a different direction.
Within this new reality on the horizon, with this new looming structure to the universe,
God invites to repent, to turn around, and to be a part of the process.
And I can’t help but notice that the people John was the harshest to was the religious leaders.
Brood of vipers? Ouch
An ax is lying at the base of the tree that isn't bearing any fruit? Yikes
And so we… humans/humanity/the Church who often experience and cause,
Brokenness and violence
Competition and exploitation
We are called to turn and repent, to pause and reflect on our role and place in the brokenness of humanity and then to prepare the way for the coming of Christ.
We are called to be prophets like Isaiah and John, who proclaim in word and deed that God’s Kingdom is indeed near and to prepare the way of Christ being born anew in our world.
I’m not saying you have to call me a snake to my face, or eat honey roasted locusts, or hop on the street corner yelling at everyone to repent.
And yet we are called to wake up to a new reality that is on the way and God is inviting us to be a part of it.
When scientists talk about the growth, and evolution and process of life, water and fire
is a big part of that conversation.
So I think it’s super cool that here comes John, speaking of a new creation on the way using water and fire as a means of the birth of a new creation. A birth that changes the course and direction of who things have always been done.
And it’s great that we had a baptism at the 8:30 worship service on a Sunday when John the Baptist shows up and we have a verse from Isaiah that says, “and a child shall lead them.” Here on the journey of Advent, with Christmas on the way, we have a Declan showing us what grace and new birth looks like.
When we confess the Apostles Creed this morning may we remember our baptisms, may we remember we are beloved children of God and that we are a part of this new creation that God is bringing about.
And now back to Elephants and plastic Dinosaurs.
Perhaps Advent can be an intentional time to reflect upon what is real and what is plastic in our lives and our world.
I think it is important to reflect upon and take action with where we place our time and energy with the plastic things of this world and the real ways God’s kingdom does indeed become near.
Dr. Heidi Russell, who came to Holy Trinity as on of our guest speakers for our Faith and Science, shared a post on social media this past week. It was an Icon of Mary cradling baby Jesus in the manger with a Bull and a Horse looking on side by side and it read,
“Want to keep Christ in Christmas?
Feed the hungry
Comfort the afflicted
Love the outcast
Forgive the wrongdoer
Inspire the hopeless”
This is the Kingdom of God come near.
We are invited to be a part of this emerging new creation.
And a child shall lead them.