A sermon preached at Kowloon Union Church on Sunday 6 December 2009, Second Sunday in Advent, by the Rev. Phyllis Wong. The scripture readings that day were Malachi 3:1-4, Luke 1:68-79, Philippians 1:3-11 and Luke 3:1-6.
Lord, open our minds and our hearts to understand the mystery of your salvation. May the words from my mouth be a delight to You and serve Your Will. Amen.
Today is the second Sunday of Advent. Advent is a time of waiting for the coming of Christ to bring hope and peace to the world.
God has called up people to be his messengers to prepare for the coming of the Lord. This morning, Kit has read the Book of Malachi, chapter 3 for us. Malachi in Hebrew means 'my messenger' or 'my angel'. When the day of Judgment was coming, the Lord Almighty said to his chosen people the Israelites that He would send his messenger to prepare the way for him. In the Gospel of Luke taken from the New Testament bible, God had chosen John the Baptist as messenger to prepare the way for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. God in his participation in human history has called up his people to be his messengers to proclaim the message of repentance for God’s salvation.
John the Baptist knew very well he was called to be God’s messenger to preach the message of turning away from sins and be baptized and God will forgive people’s sins. Like the prophets in the Jewish history, John the Baptist was God’s prophet, he was clear that the ultimate goal of his message was to bring the whole human race (in NRSV version, the term ‘all flesh’ is used) to see God’s salvation.
In John 3:1-6, important political leaders and religious leaders in John and Jesus’ time were mentioned. They included the Emperor Tiberius, the governor of Judaea, Herod the ruler of Galiliee, Philip the ruler of Iturea and Trachonitis and so on. Religious leaders: the high priests Annas and Caiaphas were named. With all these authority figures mentioned in the scene, let us pay attention to the fact that the word of God came to John, son of Zechariah in the desert. John was not an authority figure in the main stream political and religious systems. But he was called by God to be his messenger. He was called to do something very important for God. Unlike the worldly leaders, John the Baptist was righteous and faithful to God.
John followed the example of previous Hebrew prophets, living austerely, challenging sinful rulers, calling for repentance, and promising God's justice. John the Baptist had called people to lead a life turning to God.
God has chosen messengers to proclaim the good news of God’s salvation, as a preparation for the Lord’s coming.
The title of my sermon today is BE PREPARED. The first point I wish to raise is to prepare ourselves to understand God’s will for human participation in his salvation.
When I heard the readings today, I have a question in mind.
Why does God need to choose messengers to prepare a way for him? For God is so great and almighty, why does he need human beings like John the Baptist to be involved in his salvation plan? Have you ever thought about this?
Why? What do you think? How would you address this question? I have thought of a reason. May be you can think of more. God incarnated in the world in the form of human flesh through Jesus. God had limited himself to become human being. God is not a God detached from human beings. He is not a God that stay away from people. On the contrary, God has been involving actively in human history. In the human world, God allows human beings to participate in his divine plan. God became a man. Incarnation of God through Jesus was a mystery. God allows and invite human beings to take part in his salvation plan is also a mystery. This is a mystery of God who is so great and almighty would uphold human beings and give chance to them. This is something so amazing that we need to be prepared to understand. Human beings are creatures by God. Christians are Christ followers to serve. There are some people called by God to be prophets and serve as God’s servants, God’s co-workers in his saving act for and in the world.
In the human world that we are living in, God wants helpers and messengers to implement his divine plan of salvation. God wants our participation in his coming to redeem the world.God’s invitation and calling for messengers to bring the good news is out of love and trust to his people.
Dear sisters and brothers, are you prepared to be God’s messengers? If God ask you today, come to prepare yourself to serve the Lord and prepare the way for his coming, are you willing to do so?
Will you say to God like some people would that “oh no my Lord, I am not capable enough, I don’t have good conditions, and I am not ready”? In addition, some may say “I am too busy to give more to you. Please ask someone else to prepare the way for you. Sorry I am not available at the moment.”
Sisters and brothers, don’t worry about our ability. Moreover, try to be generous to God in his invitation. God is the source of everything, our life and all gifts including our health, wealth, time and so on are all from God. God values our faithfulness and our willingness to focus our life in him and serve him, more than anything else. Once we commit ourselves to God, God will give us strength and the power to do his work.
Some of my friends have said to me that I was brave to take up the Christian ministry in an international church like Kowloon Union Church. Serving in KUC was and is a great challenge. In the beginning of my ministry here, there were many areas that I was so unfamiliar with and required a lot of efforts to learn and to equip myself. To perform the roles and duties as the minister in charge for the congregation are not easy for me. In the first year of service after my ordination and installation to become minister of KUC, on and off I feel a kind of inadequacy and sense of failure. Whenever I have this kind of self doubt, God is good to comfort me by reminding me of his calling. I am called to serve, to serve as God’s servant and God’s messenger. I am called not because I have any exceptional ability or talent. The very reason is that I am willing to respond to God’s call, and follow his way. While we are waiting for God, please also remember God is waiting for our response at the same time. God has been patiently waiting for our response to become his messengers to participate in his salvation plan. The role of God’s messenger is to prepare the way of the Lord for making the whole human race (all human flesh) able to see God’s salvation.
Dear sisters and brothers, you may not be called to serve as full time minister. But every Christian, every follower of Christ is called by God to be his disciples and serve him in his salvation plan to the world. Everyone is called by God in a unique way according to God’s will and purpose, as well as our personality and gifts. Be prepared that God’s invitation and calling to you, by taking up the role of messengers. It can come at any time. Or perhaps, God may have talked to you but you were not prepared nor ready to listen and accept. Therefore please be alert and be prepared to listen to God’s tenderly voice.
Christmas is coming soon, it is a time of celebration. Christmas has become very commercialized nowadays. Christmas has become a golden period for business and consumptions. This is nothing wrong with consumption, entertainment and business, but we have to be aware of excessive and over-consumption. Moreover, for we who have faith in Jesus Christ, for we who are called to be God’s messengers to share with others the meaning of Jesus coming to the world. We have a significant role to play, that is to share the love and peace of Christmas.
During this season of Christmas, when we are preparing Christmas presents to family and friends, please also be prepared to serve the Lord as God’s messenger. Christmas is a celebration for the coming of Jesus Christ. We have to remind ourselves and people around us the essence of Christmas. The essence of Christmas is our Lord’s salvation to the world. Our Lord comes in flesh, in the form of human being to bring life, hope and peace.
If we want our message of God to have impact, we have to live in what we proclaim. Therefore, we have to be prepared for God’s calling to become his messenger. Moreover, we have to be prepared for a change in our life. The focus of our life transformation is to turn away from sins and return to God.
The message that John the Baptist proclaimed was to repent. In the Old Testament, God’s messenger from Malachi came to purify the priests so that they will bring to the Lord the right kind of offerings. Then the offerings which the people of Judah and Jerusalem bring to the Lord will be pleasing to Him, as they used to be in the past. We as God’s people need to prepare for purifying ourselves, to repent and change our lives that would be a pleasing offering to God our Lord.
Being prepared includes our repentance, turn away from sins and return to God by focusing our life in God, with God and for God.
The sermon title for today --- Be prepared is an idea generated from my memory of being a girl guide when I was in secondary school.
Preparation is so important in all aspects of life. Preparation is something from God also. God prepared this world in his Creation, God prepared Jesus Christ the savoir to redeem the broken world. God prepared the Holy Spirit to sustain and nurtures his people. Jesus Christ prepared the church for his witness in the world.
In the motto of BE PREPARED from my training in the Girl Guide, I have learnt to be prepared at any moment to face difficulties and even dangers by knowing what to do and how to do it. This preparation includes our mind, body and will. Be prepared in mind means that by having disciplined yourself to be obedient to every order, and also by having thought out beforehand any accident or situation that might occur, so that you know the right thing to do at the right moment, and are willing to do it.
Be Prepared in body is by making yourself strong and active and able to do the right thing at the right moment, and do it.
Be prepared is therefore a commitment and a determination. Advent is a time that we have to act rightly with a strong will. Christ is coming. We need to be prepared without any delay!
May our God of salvation strengthen us during the path of waiting for the coming of the Lord to bring light and hope. Amen.