Scripture Reading: Mark 1:1-8
When you are going somewhere new, somewhere you’ve never been before, what do you do? Well, I suppose it depends on why you are going? Are you going somewhere new on vacation? Or are you just heading to a new store or maybe a meeting somewhere?
Now, if it’s for a vacation, you probably want to know what sort of things there are to do! Bev and I are planning a trip to celebrate our 20th anniversary next year, so we’re researching what sort of things we’d like to do in areas we’re interested in visiting. It’s kind of fun to do this research as it opens up whole new possibilities of what we can do together.
Now, if you are simply traveling to a new neighbourhood then you’d approach it differently. You might check out some maps, maybe put the address in your phone or GPS so they can lead you right to the front door, you hope.
It’s sometimes worrisome to hear stories of GPS directions gone wrong, of people being stranded in the middle of deserts of wherever. I mean, some of those poor people even died because their GPS led them down some wrong roads, some of which weren’t even roads!
Last week, we had a basketball game in Glace Bay. Now I’ve been to Glace Bay a number of times, but it’s usually to one of 3 locations, and they are all churches. This time I had to find the Middle School. And of course it’s located in a part of Glace Bay I’ve never been to.
No problem, I looked it up on my computer, take this road then this road and it’s all good. I even looked at the various street views. So off we went.
Here’s the problem, online maps show you what the streets look like in the daylight. I was driving to be there at 7pm, 2 hours after sunset. Streets look very different in the dark.
Well, that’s fine, schools are big buildings and I know the general area, so I’ll just keep an eye out for a large building, or for school crosswalks. The signs of a school in a neighbourhood.
Nope, didn’t work. Finally I pulled over and got my phone out to find the school, and sure enough we had missed out street some time ago. Turn around, and we’re there in less than 5 minutes.
It doesn’t always turn out like you think it might turn out. It’s not hard to get lost in unfamiliar territories. In fact, on the way home, I missed a street to get us back to Sydney instead of Dominion, so I had to turn around again, all because it’s dark. Also, it might be nice if Glace Bay put up a few more signs.
Directions are funny things. How many of you would be good to give directions? And I mean good directions, none of this turn by where Jimmy had the store when Jimmy’s store hasn’t existed for 20 years.
Generally I have a good sense of direction, usually if I know my general bearings, I can find my way around pretty much anywhere. This is a handy skill to have, which is why I didn’t bother using my phone until I absolutely had to in Glace Bay.
Directions are important, we need to know where we are going. We don’t want to get lost and end up wandering around wasting time. The same can be said for life in general. We need good directions in life in order to get ahead, and to learn how to make the right decisions.
The world is full of people who are looking for direction right now. People are doing their best, but let’s be honest, we aren’t exactly filling the news with stories of great leadership these days.
World leaders are arguing and threatening war all over the place, and they are doing it in the public sphere. And Trade missions are attempts to impose regulations and ways of life on cultures assuming one way is better than the other, and that the other nation would of course want to be more like the country offering such “advanced” practices. Isn’t it just the way things seem to go, everyone thinking they are better than everyone else, and our ways are of course better than your’s.
We need good leadership, and now would be a really good time to get some.
John the Baptist was thought to be a revolutionary leader by those who were following him. John was a man who was different. He didn’t care what other people thought of him. He dressed funny. He ate weird food. But he didn’t see his role as a leader. John’s role was to be one to help people find the true leader.
Remember, John knew from the womb there was one coming who would be greater than him. Remember Mary went to see her cousin Elizabeth to tell her about her miraculous pregnancy and before Mary even said a word, the miracle baby within Elizabeth leapt for joy when Mary approached. This was the first time John acknowledged there was one greater than him to come.
John grew up to live his life as one who was dedicated to acknowledging the one who is greater than himself. More than that, John spent his life preparing others to see the one who was greater for themselves.
This is where we find John in our reading from the Gospel of Mark this morning. John knows he is the one the prophet Isaiah spoke of many, many years before. When John heard those words from Isaiah, he knew he was the one, he was born for this purpose alone.
A voice of one calling:
“In the wilderness prepare
the way for the Lord;
make straight in the desert
a highway for our God. (Isaiah 40:3)
This was John’s calling in life, not to lead but to prepare people to recognize the true leader when he would come. He knew he was but a sign on the highway, the voice of the GPS, an important part of the journey to the ultimate destination.
John was directing people to Jesus Christ. Telling people how to find him and also how to be ready once they did.
And people came from all over to hear what he had to say. They were drawn to him for the important message he shared. He preached out in the countryside what it would take to be ready to meet Jesus Christ and recognize him as the true leader, the Messiah, the one promised by God to save the world.
As part of his teaching, he baptized people as a sign of their repentance from sin, washed clean so they may be holy in the presence of God’s promised one. All of this so they would know he is the one who would give them the ultimate, the best directions for life.
We want to be very careful about who we put in charge of our lives. Who is our ultimate role model? Who is the prime example of how to live in this world? Who is our leader?
Is it Donald Trump? Justin Trudeau? Cecil Clark? Ok, so politicians aren’t good examples. What about entertainment? Ooh, not too many shining examples making the news there either.
Let’s look at it another way. Is there anyone we can think of in the world today who is the perfect example of humanity? There are some great people out there, but I can tell you they all will have flaws.
I know, I know, some of you are thinking, “Nick, you’re a pretty amazing person, what about you?”
Well, I can honestly say that I have my flaws too. I can be disorganized. I can be impatient. Among many other things! I too have my sins and fall well short of the glory of God.
There is only one who is perfect who has ever lived on this earth. His name is Emmanuel, God with us, Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, the Messiah, the Saviour of the world.
He is our shining example. He is the one true Son of God who came to this earth to be our ultimate guide. He is the one we follow. No one else can even come close to what he can offer. Not billionaires, not politicians, not entertainers, not preachers or teachers, not even the most charitable people. No one can come close because we all have our sins we carry.
Jesus Christ is sinless. Jesus Christ is perfect.
If you want someone to follow that’s the guy. Now sure, there may be others who will help us find him, to point us in the right direction. But he is the one, the beginning and the end, the one who was there in the beginning, at the forming of creation, and he is the one who will stand victorious at the end.
To put anyone in a position of authority before him is to put ourselves as risk to getting lost. It is Jesus to whom we look for direction in life, no one else. Why? Because he is God’s Son and he knows the plans the Father has in store for us.
Over the generations of the Old Testament, people kept trying to put kings and prophets before God. In doing so the chasm which formed in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve sinned before God just kept growing wider and wider. There were times in the Old Testament people had no concept of God, that’s how wide the chasm had grown.
Until one day God closed the chasm. He didn’t fill it. He eliminated it. He did this when he sent his Son Jesus into the world.
In Jesus, God closed the gap between himself and humankind. Jesus was born to bring people back into relationship with God. And it works! Now sure, not everyone has bought into the plan, and in some places there is still a pretty big chasm, but Jesus came to bring us all back together to the presence of the Lord.
Seems like a pretty big job doesn’t it? Even still today!
This is where we come in. We are the guides. We are the ones who point the way. We are the signposts on the road of life. We don’t even have to say anything, simply living as God calls us to live is often more than enough to show people it is Jesus has come to mend the world. To offer hope and peace that only God can bring.
So while world leaders are threatening war, Jesus is offering us peace. The peace of God which, truthfully, we all need.
This season of waiting for Christmas we call Advent, may we know the peace offered to the whole world, promised by God, and prepare our hearts and homes to receive this gift he brings in the Christ child.
Let us lay aside our own desires to be leaders. Let us lay aside our desires to be more like the ones people call great leaders of this planet, and may we follow the Son of God, Jesus Christ the Saviour of the world. And may we receive the gift he brings on this second Sunday of Advent.
Peace. Jesus brings God’s peace among us. May we know it. May we live it. May we share it in the name of Christ the Lord, the ultimate guide over our lives, he who is our leader and the one we show to others who are seeking peace in their own lives.
Let us pray,
You bring to us a peace only our Father can bring. May we know this peace as we come to you in this holy season of waiting.
As we wait, may our hearts be drawn ever closer as we anticipate the gift we celebrate this Christmas. Jesus, help us to reflect upon your leadership in our lives over these coming weeks, and help us to see ways in which we can overcome our sin and receive the peace you bring.
Jesus, we thank you for your life, and the life you offer us.
We pray this in your most Holy Name. Amen and amen!