Preaching Resources

Preaching Mission for the 3rd Sunday of Advent (December 11, 2022)

Pictured above:  Hope for a new day arrives as hurricane relief supplies arrive in Marshalls Point, Nicaragua, delivered by Moravians from Bluefields.

A Season of Expectations
By Bishop Chris Giesler

 Preaching Text: Matthew 11:2-11

Things don’t always turn out like we had hoped they would. Ask people what they like most about vacation, and many will tell you that planning the vacation was what they enjoyed most. This is because as we envisioned our time away, the weather was perfect, the lines were short, the food was delicious and inexpensive, everybody got along, and the flights were all on time or the traffic was light. Truth be told, reality seldom lives up to the dream.

The same can be said for John the Baptist, not as it concerned a vacation, but rather his expectation of what the Messiah would be doing. As we pick up the reading in our Gospel lesson for this week, John is not on vacation; he is being held in prison by Herod (the son of the Herod that haunts Jesus’ birth story).

Last week, John was out in the wilderness preaching up the kingdom of God coming in the Messiah that was soon to arrive. Prepare the highway, he says; make the paths straight, repent, change your life, and turn your attention away from the world and to the Savior. Let the kingdom of God break into our broken reality.

Today, things are far harder for John as he finds himself in prison for telling the king that stealing his brother’s wife was unacceptable behavior. This is not what he expected, and perhaps he is wondering if his preaching in the wilderness has made any difference in the world. After all, his present reality is not looking very good.

When have you felt disappointed? When have your expectations gone unfulfilled? Unfulfilled expectations for the Christmas season is a significant cause of holiday depression.   The Christmas season, most especially, can be full of profound disappointments. It is my contention that the thing that most distracts us from the true meaning of this season is not commercialism but rather nostalgia. We want the Christmases of long ago when loved ones who have since died were with us. We look at our place in life now, and a lot seems to be missing.

Sitting in prison, John began to wonder if Jesus was, in fact, the Messiah or should he expect another. So, he sends some of his disciples to ask Jesus that exact question. I’d be wondering the same thing if I were sitting in prison, knowing that my very life depended on the whims of a powerful ruler and his selfish family.

Jesus tells John’s disciples that the kingdom of God is breaking into the world as the blind are receiving their sight, the lame are walking, lepers are being cleansed, the dead are being raised, and the poor have good news preached to them. Yes, John, the Messiah is at work in the world, but it is a broken world that constantly needs to be cared for.

The message is the same for us today. Even while our dream Christmas season might not be realized again this year, it does not mean that God is missing in action. As a matter of fact, much of the way that the kingdom of God works depends on each of us doing our part to share God’s love in tangible ways. It happens when:

  • Someone shows up three hours before worship to clear snow from the parking lot and the sidewalks! (this one is for those of you living in the cold, cold north)
  • When someone says, “I’m sorry.”
  • When someone says, “I forgive you.”
  • When someone shares food, clean water, clothes, or shelter with the poor.
  • When someone sick or in prison is visited.
  • When someone says, “I can do that.”
  • When someone says, “How can I help you?”

In a broken world full of disappointment and misguided expectations, it is the small acts of kindness that can bring hope for a new day. Thanks be to God.

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