Sermon of the Week
On the Way to Christmas: Prepare the Way
Keywords: Flannery O’Connor, Ruby Turpin, Refining, Advent, Purification, Grace.
We’re on the way to Christmas.
Last week we embarked on the journey of Advent,
this season of watching and waiting.
We lit the first candle,
and we read biblical passages that propelled us into the future
and we talked about apocalypse, the unveiling of God’s coming again.
Today, our reading sends us in the opposite direction.
On the second Sunday of Advent,
we are pulled into the distant past
and we hear the words of the ancient prophet, Malachi.
Malachi was a harbinger.
The bible likes people like that:
people who help us make sense of the present and to get ready for the future.
The Story of John the Baptist is like that, also,
and these two passages go really well together,
because John picks up where Malachi left off,
which is one reason we always turn to John the Baptist
on the Second Sunday of Advent.
But this year, let us consider Malachi a bit more closely.
Malachi tells us about someone who is coming “to prepare the way for the Lord.”
This messenger, Malachi says, will purify people’s hearts.
God is sending an emissary
who comes intending to cleanse your souls.
It all seems a bit presumptuous, doesn’t it?
In the midst of our pre-Christmas hustle and bustle,
the church trots out some primitive prophet
who promises us an Advent scrub-down.
Is that really what we need right now?
You would think that the lectionary
could come up with a few encouraging words at this time—
assuring us that we will make it through another Christmas,
instead of cheekily suggesting that
before God arrives, we need a bath.
One of my closest pastor mentors, Mark Ramsey,
used to read a lot of Flannery O’Connor.
I know that, because he’d always be talking about O’Connor’s works in his sermons
You can always learn a lot about your pastors
by the things she preaches about,
the movies he goes to see
the television shows she favors.
Mark loved the Saint Louis Cardinals,
had a soft spot for a sharply-written television thriller
and liked to read literature that helped us understand who we are
and why we do the things we do.
I had to ignore the fact that he was a Cardinal fan.
Nobody’s perfect. [Read more…]