Second Sunday of Advent


Twenty days, 15 hours, and about 40 minutes – (As of Sunday, the 4th, at 8:20 A.M.)


That’s the time between right now, and December 25th.

Christmas is coming, and nobody can stop it.

Not you, not me, not even the Grinch.

All we can do is wait.


That’s exactly what advent feels like for us – a time of waiting.


It’s not so bad, though.

Advent, after all, is pleasant and predictable;

It’s warming, and happy; it even smells good, like pine and peppermint.

The hymns are superb;

And no matter how much you like green; blue is always a welcome change.

So for all that, we really don’t mind it.


We watch, we wait, and we smile, because the baby Jesus is on the way.

And if you use one of the tastier calendars available,

Every day is just one piece of chocolate closer to Christmas.


Things are a bit different for Jesus’ cousin John.

This season barely lasts a month for us,

But for the Baptist, it has been Advent his entire life.


Every day, every hour, every minute, always forever –

John has been watching and waiting,

Because Advent could end at any second.


John is not alone, though; even in the wilderness.

Jerusalem, Judea and the entire region about the Jordan are there as well;

Even the Pharisees and Sadducees are waiting.


And that waiting is the problem.

You wait for a bus.

You wait for the Pats to come on.

You wait for the pizza guy to show up.


But Jesus is not the pizza guy.

And John the Baptist was not sent to help anyone wait out Advent.


He does not go out into the wilderness of Judea to wait.

Instead, John is the voice crying out:


Prepare the way of the Lord, make His paths straight.”


Waiting is over.

John’s preaching, which is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy,

Is to prepare the way of the Lord, to make Jesus’ path straight.

So that when He comes, He will not find a people weary and anxious from waiting;

Rather He will find them prepared.


It seems such an abstract notion, to be prepared.

What does it mean? How does it happen? What do I do?

If it is more than waiting, what is it?


Left to our own devices, we would come up with all sorts of answers.

Thankfully, I don’t have to figure it out, and neither do you.


There is only one way to prepare the Lord’s way, and it is this:

John says to Jerusalem, he says to the Pharisees, and he says to each of you,


“Repent. For the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”


To you, being told to repent probably tastes more like John’s locusts than his honey.


Partially becomes it sounds so judgy, and rude,

But also because like most of the folks who heard John’s preaching,

Even the Pharisees and Sadducees,

You are either pretty nice people, or very convincing liars.


And because Advent treads so softly,

You’ve even been pretty good at playing the waiting game.

But John’s job, my job, is to prepare you.


And according to John’s uncomfortably simple formula

that means repentance: full blast, no excuses.

Preparation means repenting of your sins, to be sure;

But it also means to repent of your waiting.


To be prepared is to repent of being lazy and passive.

Of treating Jesus like the bus or the pizza guy,

Who, if he delivers everything to you, the way you want, and when you want,

Might get a decent tip.

Jesus is not about that life.


So repent.

Stop waiting, start preparing, and bear fruit in keeping with repentance.


Go be merciful.

Go love someone unlovable.

Be generous and charitable.

What are you waiting for?!


If you don’t want to, then start by admitting that.

But whatever you don’t you dare say to yourself that you have Abraham for your Father.

Don’t you dare talk about how long you’ve been a Christian.

Don’t tell John or me how you are saved by grace through faith apart from the works of the Law (Rom. 3.28)

That’s a different sermon.

And if you would use that truth as an excuse to be lazy, greedy, and unloving,

Then it is certainly not the sermon you need.

That line didn’t work for the Pharisees, and it won’t work for you.


The word for Advent is not wait, but prepare.

Repent, and bear fruit.

Because if you do not,

Then you’re no good to Jesus and His Kingdom.

And there’s only one thing to do with you.


Looking at our own lives, that is a terrifying judgment;

Sobering and accurate.

And yet, this divine judgment is not something you ought to fear.


This is because judgment has already been passed.

The wrath that Pharisees flee,

And the fire, which devours trees like kindling

Has already been poured out on Jesus for your sake.


You now have the chance to do one of two things.


The first thing you can do is what John desperately warns against.

You can say that you have faith; and so you are safe and sound, a son of Abraham.

This frees you up to be gossipy, to complain,

To not give a real 10% to the church,

And to lazily wait out advent unrepentant, and unprepared.


The other thing you can do is bear fruit,

Which is much tastier to your neighbor than Christmas cookies.

Disclaimer: bearing fruit may, in fact, involve baking your neighbor Christmas cookies.

Especially if that neighbor is not as friendly and fun as you are.


Remember, you’re not being asked to grow fruit.

That’s something you just can’t do.


Rather, you are being asked to bear fruit –

To present the fruit that Jesus Himself grows.

That you can do.


You can bear fruit because you are not a dead tree,

Fit only for ax and chop and fire.


You are a tree that has been planted by the seed of God’s Word.

You have been watered in Holy Baptism, with the fire of the Holy Spirit.

And in a few moments you will be nourished with Jesus’ own Body and Blood,

Here at this very altar.


And that reality:

That Jesus is here,

Not in the abstract, but bodily, in Flesh and Blood,

To touch and be touched,

To heal you, and forgive you;

To bless you and feed you –


That means you can have a joyful and fruitful Advent.

And that when Jesus comes,

He will not find a people who are merely waiting.

He will find a people prepared.



About Pastor Hopkins