The Reverend Elizabeth Bowyer
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Reflection for Advent Two, Sunday, December 5, 2015  

Based on Malachi 3: 1-4 A refiner’s fire and a launderer’s soap & Luke 3: 1-6 A voice calling in the desert

Opening Prayer: Dear God, as we reflect together on your Word for us this day, may the words on my lips and the thoughts and feelings in our hearts and minds and bodies be acceptable in your sight.  Amen.

This morning we celebrate the second Sunday of Advent and again, our readings from scripture bring us stories about endings and new beginnings.   These stories of endings and beginnings all jumbled together make me think of last year’s string of Christmas lights similar to the ones many of us have just brought out of storage again in time for Christmas decorating.  Some of us had the pesky chore of trying to untangle some of them yesterday morning here in the sanctuary.  Regarding the strings of lights decoratng our sanctuary this morning, we can see that indeed, Christmas will soon be upon us, here at Knox!

Coming back to our two stories from Scripture this morning, we encounter several sayings of the Prophets, thought to be messengers from God. You may remember that most people in biblical times and in our time as well are not very receptive to prophets and messengers.  Often prophets are isolated and lonely, passionate ones whose ideas are often not well received.   Prophets are those folks thought to be touched by God, often so far ahead of their time and ours, that their ideas put our teeth on edge. Prophets, lightning rods for change, find themselves in our midst for only a short time. Sometimes, because of that, they are viewed, after the fact, as change agents.  In the moment, however, prophets can make us so uncomfortable we might even feel compelled to want to run them off cliffs!

This morning our readings introduce us to two edgy prophets- Malachi and John, the Baptist, both messengers from God.  Both men felt compelled to bring a word of hope about another messenger God would be sending; One whose coming would bring forth a new and decidedly different future.    In this morning's readings, both Malachi and John the Baptist remind their listeners not only that a huge change is coming but also, that the costs and promises of saying ‘yes’ to the hopes and dreams of this new messenger will be significant.  

The messenger Malachi proclaims will inaugurate a new era but along with that, a need for hearts and minds and bodies to be refined and purified.  "What might that look like?” we would do well to wonder.

In the Luke reading, John the Baptist quotes his forebear, Isaiah, challenging his listeners to remember that the ushering in of this new era will also require the repentance for the forgiveness of sins through baptism. 

For our purposes, we might say that John the Baptist is equating the term 'repentance' with 'a change of heart’ or ‘a change of mind’.  We might also understand the word 'repentance to mean to ‘go beyond the mind we already have’.  Through baptism, John says, his listeners will also be required to set aside all that separates them from God and from one another. 

Certainly not easy reading for the Second Sunday in the season of Advent! But then again, who ever said anything about prophecy or scripture being easy or for the faint of heart?

You might be wondering: ‘What might the readings have to do with the almost child-like anticipation most of us bring to the stories of the birth of the baby Jesus each Advent season?’  

That is until we remember that our timing is not God's timing.

With that in mind, then let us be open to how God's spirit is at work here and now in our lives as a church community poised at the midway point in the season of Advent. 

This morning as we anticipate hearing a word from two different contemporary prophets or ‘messengers’ from our church family about our Stewardship Campaign for this year, we might say these readings from Malachi and from Luke bring a great deal to bear. 

We, too, are being refined and purified for our mission and the emerging ministries here at Knox. 

We, too, are being called to a ‘change of mind’ or a ‘change of heart’ shifting our focus away from maintenance and our building project to a new era of mission emerging in our midst. 

And, in our end, is most definitely our beginning.

And for all of that and more, we say thanks be to God, and amen!