The Second Sunday of Advent
Deacon Anne Flynn
Luke 3:1-6

Isaiah foretold John the Baptist:
A voice cries out:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD,
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
and all people shall see it together,
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” Isaiah 40:3-5

And John the Baptist proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” Mark 1:7-8

And here we are beginning the second week of Advent in 2015.
How will this Advent be different? Different from what you might ask. How will this Advent be different from past Advents; different from other seasons of the church year? How will we be different? Well of course we know that in Advent we prepare for Christmas – God becoming human in the person of Jesus. Imagine that, GOD becomes human, just like us experiencing joy, sorrow and pain. This is not an easy thing to consider; certainly folks have been trying to get their minds around this idea for thousands of years. God incarnate, that’s what we are talking about. Being human is hard! It was hard for Jesus and it is hard for us.

Advent is a time when we work to get our heads around that concept of God becoming human like us. It’s the time when we try to find a way to bring our world closer to God’s kingdom. Instead, we seem to be constantly reminded that we are far from God’s kingdom. The events of the last few weeks have been a rude reminder that we humans still have a long way to go to be like Christ.

For instance, did you ever think that “active shooter” would be a part of our vocabulary? and yet we all know that phrase now – active shooter is a technical term, it means, according to the definition the White House, the Justice Department, the FBI and Homeland Security have all agreed upon, “an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area.”

Somehow, though, this clinical language — the language of police drills and government handbooks — has migrated into how the rest of us talk. Children come home speaking of their “active shooter” practice at schools. There is “active shooter” training to prepare us to respond in the event that we find ourselves in this situation. I have to ask: is this the world we want to live in? Is this the world we want for our children and grand children? Is this the world that Jesus wanted to bring us when he became one of us?

I believe the answer is no. I am fairly certain that this is not what God intends for us either! So, what do we do about it? I said earlier, it is hard to be human. What does “thy kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven” mean in 2015?

What does “forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us” mean in 2015? John the Baptist had the answers when the crowds asked him (and we will hear it in next week’s Gospel reading). “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.” “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.”

It is 2015, what should we do? We can’t personally stop the horrendous acts like those in Paris and San Bernardino, but we can work to make this a better world.

In many ways, we do that already here at Grace Cathedral. Here at Grace Cathedral, we have many ministries including Outreach, Pastoral Care, Prayer, Healing, Music and the arts. But, we can’t sit back and relax because we have these ministries here. This is work that all of us need to join.

This advent, I want to issue a challenge. If you are not involved now, get involved. I would be happy to spend some time with you as would Dean Lipscomb or any member of the staff or congregation. Ask. If you notice that a coworker seems to skip lunch a lot, if you are able, bring an extra sandwich in your sack lunch and share. You might make a new friend and it will be a blessing for them and you. Will this prevent a mass shooting? Who knows? Become knowledgeable about the services offered in the community of Topeka and connect people you meet with services that they may need. If you see something, say something. Trust your instinct. Tell your story; listen to their story. You will find that when you know a person’s story they are not as scary as they might seem. There will be fewer of them and more of us.

SO, how will this Advent be different? I will leave you with this prayer from Paul’s letter to the Philippians:
And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.