12/10 - Pastor's Post

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    Last Sunday we heard about John the Baptist and his message of repentance in preparation for the coming of "one who is more powerful than I, who will baptize you with the Holy Spirit." On this Third Sunday of Advent, December 11, we again hear about John, but this time the message is somewhat different. In fact, he's in prison. We read in Mark 6:18 that it was his confrontational manner to preaching and his lack of political correctness that landed him there.
           
    Remember what he said to the religious authorities in Matthew 3? "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance." But this time he had picked a fight with someone with real political power: Herod, who was working for mighty Rome. Read the whole story in Mark 6 for the details. To sum it up, he had offended Herod by confronting him for marrying his half-brother's wife, which was against Jewish law. Unfortunately for John, there was no First Amendment in the Roman Empire. So there he sits in prison, wondering if he was wrong in identifying Jesus as "he who is to come."
 
    As we hear in this Sunday's Gospel (Matthew 11:2-11), he sends word to Jesus asking him if he, John, might have made a mistake. "Why am I in prison? What went wrong? After all, I did my duty, prepared the way for you, and this is my reward?"
 
    Jesus' answer to him is as follows: "Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepersare cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them." In other words, you weren't wrong in identifying me as the Messiah. Don't let temporary setbacks discourage you.
 
    These words are directed to us as well. Some people think that if they are Christians they will be immune to all the "heartaches and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to" (with apologies to Shakespeare). Others, like the seed that falls on rocky ground in Jesus' parable of the sower, "When trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away." I don't want to imply that John fell away, but that's a real danger for us in today's troubled world.
 
    That's why we need to hear the Advent message again and again: "Don't get discouraged! Don't lose heart! Salvation is on the way!"
 
    And as I've been saying for two weeks, an excellent way to observe Advent and strengthen ourselves for the trials of the day ahead (and prepare ourselves for the joy of Christmas) is to engage in daily Bible readings that pertain directly to this season of the church year. Here are the readings for the coming week:
 
Sunday, December 11: Be Patient James 5:7-10
Monday, December 12: Magnify the Lord! Luke 1:39-47
Tuesday, December 13: Repent and Believe Matthew 21:28-32
Wednesday, December 14: Jesus Is the Messiah Luke 7:18-23
Thursday, December 15: I Am Your Redeemer Isaiah 54:1-10
Friday, December 16: A Shining Lamp John 5:33-36
Saturday, December 17: Lion of Judah Genesis 49:2, 8-10
 
    To repeat: daily devotions serve to set our sights on things above, to help us get though the day ahead in spite of all the stress, disappointments, personal issues and other things which do not "help to make the season bright." And since some of you have asked, these readings come to you courtesy of Creative Communications for the Parish, a service we often use here at First English. I found this particular list when I visited my former congregation in Pennsylvania the day before Thanksgiving. They sent them out as one sheet, I add my own comments each week about how to prepare for our Lord's birth.
 
    In this spirit let us observe a meaningful Advent! I'll reserve my wishes for a Merry Christmas to all for one week and six days from now.
 
Faithfully yours,
Pastor John Schweitzer
Last Published: December 19, 2016 9:52 PM
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