Lay Preachers

by Sarah Thiemann

We are the wilderness, crying. We are the desert, parched. We are the wasteland, the crooked roads, the rugged land. We are all people everywhere. We wait for you. Comfort us. Come like rain, and abundant harvests. Come to us, Lord Jesus. and fill us with your glory. Amen


There is a precious gift that comes even before Christmas. (and I'm not talking about a Hanukah gift) I am talking about Advent.

What a gift Advent is, what a gift it is to be given this time to get ready.

I want you to think about -- you wish you could have been more prepared for?

A test in school - an interview for college or a new job - pause - the loss of one
a date - a game you had to play in - when your best friend moved away - when your parents got divorced, when the stock market crashed, when you lost a loved one.

There are so many things that can happen when we least expect it, when we are not ready. How many times have you said If only I had known...or ...I wish I had been more prepared.

What a gift it can be when we ARE given time to prepare. This advent, As I think more and more these days about someday becoming a parent, I have been thinking about Elizabeth and Mary. I imagine the birth of a child is one of the most life changing events a person can experience. Thank goodness we get nine months to prepare ourselves. Even though I hear you are really never ready for it. But even more importantly that child, that life, NEEDS that 9 months, to be ready for the world.

At the science museum there is a wonderful presentation in the planetarium about the winter solstice, the longest night of the year.
There are many many cultures that celebrate this event with lights and feasting.

I was so struck by what Wikipedia told me when I looked up the winter solstice - Apparently Jan-April were the toughest months, with not a lot of food, - so after April, communities would start preparing for the next winter, because it wasn't certain who would live survive it. So they started gathering 9 months in advance.

So what are we getting ready for this advent? And every advent?
And how do we do it?

John the Baptist is our messenger - In Mark he proclaims "the one who is more powerful than I is coming after me" Now I believe this is commonly thought to mean "Someone more powerful is coming next."

But when I read this in preparation for this sermon, I heard the phrase "coming after me" a little differently. This time I heard instead "the one who is more powerful than I is seeking me out, is trying to find me."

Advent is about preparing ourselves because GOD IS SEEKING US OUT so that we can do God's work.

Definition of prepare : to make ready before hand for some purpose

God is trying to find us. And Jesus comes like a beacon of light.

"Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths, TO US, straight."

2nd question how do we do it - what does it mean to prepare?

Pre - in advance, beforehand
Pare - to trim off an outside, excess, what is not needed, or what gets in the way.

Isaiah tells us what is necessary - "every valley should be lifted up, every mountain and hill be made low, make straight in the desert a highway for our God" - what might the end result of this road construction be -

ASK: will it be easier or harder for God to find us? Easier - and a highway is two ways.

It will be easier for us to find God.

As the lay preaching group sat around the table and discussed these readings we made different associations to this imagery. I immediately thought of the roads in Honduras. Anyone who has gone on our Honduras mission can tell you what the roads there are like. Full of potholes and treacherous. It definitely made it a lot harder to get to the villages we were trying to serve.

Someone else in the group thought of earthquakes. A violent upheaval. Certainly not an easy task.

Here's what I think is the really good news about advent: we don't only have 4 weeks to prepare, there is no set deadline.

Those tectonic plates whose shifting causes earthquakes? It takes a million years for them to move 25 km. They move as slowly as your fingernails grow.

In 2 Peter, Simon Peter tells us to the Lord, One day is like a thousand years and a thousand years are like one day." The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some may think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish."

To me, this means that this time of preparation, this time to ready ourselves, will take as long as it needs to take. God is waiting for us on the other side of that highway.

And as the unexpected occurs, the plates shift, the mountains and hills rise up again, our smooth places will, yet again, start to get a little rough.

Thank goodness that we have the gift of advent every year so that we can get ready over and over again. Amen.

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