2nd Sunday of Advent—A—December 8, 2013
Preached at the Lutheran Church of Framingham
Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight oh Lord, our strength, and our redeemer.
With the events of this week, I have been thinking a lot about how amazing the impact of one person can be on the world.
Think about the impact that Nelson Mandela had on the reality that was South Africa. It was by no means a quick difference…he did spend 27 years in prison, living in a tiny cell, breaking rocks in the hot sun. But instead of fighting violence with violence, or hate with hate, he repented…he reoriented and took another way…he turned his focus to a non-violent resistance, a peaceful struggle towards justice and peace. And that was not only the case while he remained in a place of no power. Even after the apartheid state had been dismantled and Nelson Mandela became President, he continued to advocate for peace and justice through the establishment of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Instead of retribution, restorative justice was the goal. Victims of gross human rights violations were given a chance to tell their story. Their perpetrators were also given a chance to testify, speak the truth, take responsibility, receive amnesty, and begin the reconciliation process. Although saying “I’m sorry” was sometimes part of testimony, the repentance that occurred was so much bigger. All sides participated in reorientation…away from pain…away from hate…away from death…to life, healing, and love (even for their enemies). Obviously Nelson Mandela was not solely responsible for the transition from Apartheid to democracy, but he was a driving force, one man who made a huge difference by preaching repentance and a new vision for the world. He judged the poor with righteousness, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth.
In a similar way, St. Nicholas, bishop of Myra, worked to single handedly to make the world better…more just. He had a reputation for secret gift giving, such as putting coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him, and thus became the model for Santa Claus. He gave money to the poor, food to the hungry, and was a friend to sailors. He even paid the dowry for a farmer’s three daughter to keep them from unholy employment, and legend says that he resurrected three boys after a butcher killed them.
He came from a family of great means, but did not let that overshadow his call to serve. He lost his parents when he was young, but did not let pain and resentment control his life.
From a place of great power within the church, and Constantine’s empire, he repented…always focusing his attention on those in need instead of living life in an ivory tower of power and means. Obviously St. Nick is not the only priest, or even Bishop, that worked to make the world a better, more just place, but he was a positive example, one man who did his part by enacting repentance and a new vision for the God’s Creation. He defended the needy among the people, rescued the poor, and crushed the oppressor.
And then there is John the Baptist who yelled about repentance and a new vision for humanity. And although we do not hear John use the words of Isaiah, we tend to equate the two message, that the vision of the ideal king is realized in Jesus. That is what the shoot from the stump of Jesse is; a new king coming from the line of David (and his father). What the world needs is a ruler who has the spirit of the LORD resting on him: the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.
This ideal ruler shall be in the fear of the LORD.
He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear—instead he is going to decide based on truth and fact.
With righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth.
He shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
Righteousness and faithfulness will be such a part of him that they shall be like the belt around his waist and around his loins.
And when this ruler is in power, there will peace like has never been seen before, at least not since before Sin, in the garden. There will be no fighting, not even among wild animals. The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, the cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.
They will not hurt or destroy for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.
Can you imagine such an existence? It would be glorious!
But let us not forget, this is John who is going to do all this, he simply prepares the way. I could go on and on, telling the stories of women and men who singularly make a great positive impact on society…Rosa Parks, MLK Jr, doctors, inventors, peace maker…but even though their impact is immense and begins to make the world like Isaiah describes, no one is capable of the impact that Jesus is. The birth of Christ marks the single greatest difference that has been made to our world. Everyone else can preach about it and enact little pieces of peace and justice, but it is Christ that is that peace and justice and love incarnate. They and we can only work towards peace, because the Prince of Peace took on our flesh, is among us now, and will come again to be that ruler on earth and make that vision of peace and justice a reality once and for all.
Like Nelson, Nicholas, and John, we too can work for the good of the kingdom, towards the goal of peace and love, but we do not do it alone, we do it with Christ by our sides, in our hearts, and working through our hands, feet, and mouths. And for that I am grateful, we do not work in vane or alone, because Immanuel…God is with us. Amen.