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The text: Matthew 3:1-12
Advent comes to us this morning on the jarring, jangly words of a wilderness wanderer, a character who, in our minds, seems a more likely candidate for a mental hospital or a Far Side cartoon than as herald of the coming Christ.
“Repent! For the kingdom of heaven has come near!”Admit it, he lost you at “Repent!,” didn’t he? The very word reminds us of the kind of preacher who turns us off…the one whose approach shames us and leaves us feeling worthless. We tune him out before he really gets started, guarded and protected from the words of someone we’re sure doesn’t really understand our situation. The word repent for many of us is so closely tied to the privileged, fiery preacher who never for a moment considers how his position colors his demands that we can’t really hear it without shutting down. He appears on the scene and with his first word “Repent!” we hit the channel up button on the remote and move on to something else. The only surprising thing in this story, then, is that the man, John the Baptist, actually had a significant following in his day. What happens, though, if we position the preacher squarely in the midst of the oppressed, facing the religious, political, and economic powers of the day, calling them to repentance? Are we a little more willing to listen to what he has to say? Does the call to repentance make more sense?