Welcome to worship for this 2nd Sunday of Advent, December 5, 2021!
The bulletin can be found here. As always the bulletin will have the order of worship with the hymns out of the ELW and the page number out of the Tree of Life booklet, the words and responses of the liturgy, and the sermon in full. The sermon is also included after the video on this page.
Another way to enhance your online worship is to have lit candle for the whole service, and have something small to eat and drink for communion. This can help you feel the connection you have with the rest of the community and all of God’s people.
May God bring you peace throughout this season of waiting and always!
Holy One, through your Spirit instruct us by the faith and wisdom of your prophets. Shine your peace and love into our hearts, that we might hear and heed to your call to become your path into the world, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Last week our daughter came up to me out of the blue and said “Dad, I want to watch ‘Hot Guy’”. Now, most parents would be worried if they heard their 7 year old say something like this, but you have to realise that our kids watch a LOT of YouTube and that platform is full of weirdly titled videos and even weirder content creators, so I just assumed it was some channel of some kid who was trying to be funny by calling himself that or making a video with that title. I just shrugged and said ok. But then she came back a little while later asking to watch “Hot Guy” and I admittedly was a bit annoyed and I told her that I didn’t know what “Hot Guy” even was. Then she looked at me confused and was like, you don’t know what it is? Then it hit me…
She was talking about Hawkeye.
I know what you’re thinking, “who?!?”, and I wouldn’t be surprised. See, Hawkeye is a recurring character in the Marvel movies and one of the original Avengers, but he is also probably the most obscure member of the team. If I said Captain America, Iron Man, or Thor, you’d totally know who I was talking about. But Hawkeye? Not so much. The character didn’t even have his own title until like last week when Disney+ released a 6-episode series starring him, which is what our daughter actually wanted to watch. She wanted to watch it, but even then she couldn’t even get his name right. That is how obscure and relatively unknown this character is.
I think one of the reasons why Hawkeye goes so unnoticed is that while he’s an original member of the Avengers, the world’s mightiest heroes, this collection of remarkable people assembled to fight the battles that the world never could, he was just a regular dude who was really good at shooting arrows. You know, like Robin Hood or Cupid or that guy from America’s Got Talent from a couple years ago. So you could imagine that those who have actually heard of him just made fun of him over the years, as he’s on this team of superheroes fighting crazy super powered enemies and his usefulness ends as soon as his arrow quiver runs dry. He even says it himself in the Age of Ultron movie, “Ok, look, the city is flying, we’re fighting an army of robots, and I have a bow and arrow. None of this makes sense.”
Or does it?
Some mega fans have pointed out that the only time that the Avengers lose or fall apart is when Hawkeye isn’t there. Every time the team of remarkable people get ahead of themselves and bite off a bit more than they can chew, you’ll notice Hawkeye is absent. Whenever these god-like superheroes get caught up in their own superiority and god-complex, it’s regular human Hawkeye that brings them down a notch and back to humanity.
And to be honest, this really reminds me of John the Baptizer. I’m not saying that Hawkeye wears camel hair and eats locusts, although he doesn’t often wear proper armour when he goes into fights. Nor am I saying that John the Baptizer punishes those who don’t repent with an arrow in their leg, although “brood of vipers” is an insult that would sting pretty bad. But what I mean is that John, too, is sort of an underdog. He’s a regular, unremarkable guy that most people in that time would have just said, “who?!?”
See in John the Baptizer’s introduction in Luke, we get these really hard to pronounce names and places. At first glance you might think that Luke is just giving the historical context of this story, I mean it does start with “in the fifteenth year” after all. But looking at the names that are listed, we’ll see that they’re all the best of the best at the time. La crème de la crème, as it were. These were the most powerful, the most respected, the most feared, and the most religious people that the readers would know. They are the ones who are the most revered and listened to, the ones who are talked about the most and get the most press, the ones who would very easily get their own movie and sequels or at least plays or scrolls or whatever. They are the easiest and clearest choice to bear the Word of God in this climate, they are shoe-ins to be God’s chosen, they would be the obvious front runners to be called to prepare the way of the Lord.
But instead, the Word of God came to John.
And that is where most people of the time would say “who?!?” as John was a nobody, born to very elderly parents, wore funny clothes and ate weird food, and had no fixed address. There’s no way that God would choose someone like John.
But God did. God does. And God will continue to do so.
The text tells us that John went and proclaimed a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sin as he prepared the way of the Lord according to the prophet Isaiah. The way of the Lord is straight paths, where the valleys are filled and the mountains and hills made low. Level, smooth, and non-obstacle-filled ground.
I would imagine this would be a hard message to hear in those days. Not because it’s confusing, or obscure, or even a difficult riddle. But this message or any message for that matter would be hard to hear because it came from someone like John. We don’t want to hear teaching from weirdos. We don’t trust misfits. We can’t imagine that God’s word would come from someone who was so powerless and nobody.
But at the same time, it needs to come exactly from someone like John, because he is the exact embodiment of this message. He is the prime example of how sin moves the hills to become mountains and the valleys to become deep holes. Just by being himself he is revealing to the world how we make the crooked even more out of shape by our assumptions and prejudices. He is the exact person that was needed to prepare the way as a nobody, ordinary, unremarkable.
But an ordinary unremarkable nobody that is loved and called by God.
See this is what John’s message means by bringing down the mountains and bringing up the valleys. This is what Isaiah was talking about by smoothing out the rough ways. This is the preparing of the way of God’s entrance into the world, by seeing the equality in God’s love, the equitable forgiveness of God’s grace, and the invitation to, the welcome for, and the acceptance of all people into the eternal and everlasting kingdom of God.
Now this isn’t to say that every weird person on the street has a divine message for us to repent and seek forgiveness. This doesn’t mean that we should take every word that comes out of anyone’s mouth as truth. I’m not saying that we need to throw out our lens of discernment and view everyone as a prophet. But it is to say that just because someone is weird and doesn’t fit our mold, that doesn’t mean that they don’t have some wisdom to offer. It is to say that we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, a superhero by their superpowers or lack thereof, or a messenger of God by their upbringing, background, and choice of clothing or diet. And it is also to say that the Word of God can come even to us when we might not believe in ourselves to have the understanding or knowledge or gift of what God is doing in the world today.
See God chooses the powerless as well. God chooses the unexpected. God chooses even us.
So who might the people be that we disregard and throw down into the valleys from our lofty hills? Who are the ones that we place up on mountainous pedestals and blindly admire and follow? Who are the ones that we choose not to listen to just because they aren’t exactly what we expected?
Whoever they are, whether it be a stranger or a close friend, a far out celebrity or even ourselves, let’s remember John the Baptizer’s message of repentance and forgiveness, leading us all on the same level as everyone else, a level where God’s love reigns, God’s grace is equally and freely given, and God’s peace surpasses all our human understanding and power.
This Advent, as we continue to look forward to God with us, may we be aware of God bringing up the lowly and humbling the lofty in peace, that the path into our community and hearts be straight and smooth for the Lord to enter. Thanks be to God. Amen