Welcome to the Third Sunday of Advent – I was very relieved that we cancelled services last week. I would have been worried sick about all of us out on that ice otherwise. I am appreciative to the leadership of the parish who made that decision.
Today we get the third candle lit – the rose colored one. Why do we have a rose colored candle? Go google it – I dare you – you’ll see many different interpretations of why we have a rose colored candle. Which one is right? Exactly.
The Gospel reading this weekend troubles me. There’s something not quite right here – did you hear it? John is asking Jesus who he is – “are you the one?” Am I the only one lost here? John is a cousin of sorts, they’ve known each other their whole lives. John baptized Jesus and heard the Voice say, “This is my Beloved Son.” How can John wonder who Jesus is by the 11th chapter in Matthew?! Maybe it is because Jesus doesn’t do what John thinks he should – maybe it’s because Jesus doesn’t say what John thinks he should. Jesus doesn’t fit the “Ideal” of what John thinks of in a Messiah. John seems to want hellfire and brimstone – repentance – separation of the wheat from the tares – cleansing of the threshing floor – baptism with the Holy Spirit and fire – chopping down the worthless and throwing them into the fire. That’s what John expects. That’s not who Jesus is.
We cannot blame John – we do the exact same thing. I have a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon that I love – Calvin is sitting on a swing fuming after the bully has picked on him. He says something like “God it sure would be easier to believe in you if you would smite someone every now and then!” We all think that – every day if you’re like me. When will the wicked get their due? When will justice be done? Why are we STILL waiting for peace on earth, people’s hearts to be turned to good, neighbors to care about each other? In our darkest days – like these are now – we want fire and brimstone – the wheat and the chaff separated – the unrepentant chopped up and thrown into the fires of hell. Am I the only one this appeals to? There would be a great satisfaction in that!
And that is exactly where we are losing potential Christians. People who have studied Jesus and Christianity admire Jesus because he is not that way. They cannot understand how the church got to be so judgmental. As human beings, we mess up Jesus’ message all the time when we draw lines in the sand about who is in or out – when we decided who “deserves” medical care, food stamps, Christmas gifts, help with rent or childcare. We do it all. The. Time.
One of the explanations for the Rose candle is that we are halfway through Advent and we can celebrate that we have made it this far faithfully preparing for the coming of the Christ child, the second coming of God to this world, the birth of Jesus within ourselves. Woo-hoo! How faithful have you been? I’m not doing so well yet – I still have Angel Tree children to buy for, I have not yet made my year-end donations, I have not gone out of my way to show Christ’s love to anyone yet this Advent. Maybe that rose candle can motivate me to be more like Christ and think less like John this season. Maybe I can be Christ-like to someone working late and under stress in this holiday season. I pray that will be so – for me and for you –as we watch and wait. I pray that Jesus will surprise us all this season as he comes among us again. I pray that we will recognize him. Amen.
Audio of the sermon is on the right sidebar PodBean Player.