Second Sunday of Advent 2021.12.05 We were pleased to welcome Chaplaincy Councillor, Mr. Ádám Bak, as our guest preacher this day. Ádám, a former Catholic priest, is seeking recognition of his Holy Orders in the Church of England. Malachi 3:1-4; Canticle 16; Philippians 1:3-11; Luke 3:1-6 I was wondering which greeting I should use to open my sermon. Once I heard an old priest, he was over 80, start his sermon with: sweathearts. A Calvinist friend of mine always uses the form: People of God. Let me use the form with which I have begun sermons among my previous congregations. I found it in the Letters of John: Beloved brothers and sisters! Today two passages give us an unmistakable image of John the Baptist. I invite you to contemplate his vocation and to learn from him how we could apply his advice and his life- example in our own lives. In the prophesy of Malachi, we heard, „See I send my messenger.” Is it maybe an angel? Or a prophet? As Jesus said about John: I tell you the truth: among human beings never was born greater than John the Baptist. He is realy the greatest one because he prepared the way for the Lord. The Gospel of Luke quotes another prophesy, that of Isaiah. John was himself testifying that he is the voice in the wilderness. It has an historical background. In that time, if it a war was planned, somebody would run before the king to announce his arrival. In the Byzantine tradition, John is called the rose of the wilderness. On one of his feast days -- he has several during the Church-year -- we sing: the wilderness was blossomed with the appearing of John. There are lot of conjectures about John and uncountable pictures, icons, and representations of him. But I ask you: What is it that we truly know about this prophet, about this prototype of the prophets?
He is the child of an old priest and of an old woman who was long past her fruitfulness or fertility. And this old couple experienced a great sense of shame because of their childlessness. In the Old Testament, if somebody did not have any children that meant they had sinned, secretly or by inheritance. But the Lord was gracious with this old couple, with Zachariah and Elisabeth, and in spite of the usual life process of old age, he gifted them with a child, one who had an extraordinary calling or vocation. John was a Nazirite. This means that he never drank alcohol and that a razor had never touched him, so in other words he never shaved. He lived in the wilderness, his meals were wild honey and locust. Once I did participate at a biblical conference and a baptist Pastor bring us honey and locust, a kind of insect. The prophets, and later the eremites, collected a lot of locusts in the night because at night in the wilderness it is extremely cold, and locusts cannot jump to escape. So they collected them and cooked them in salt water. They then dipped the locusts in honey and ate them. I once did the same at a church conference. To tell the truth, it was not bad. But now after many years, I do not want to eat them again. That John lived in the wilderness has a special meaning. The people of Israel, before they received the land of promise, lived for forty years in the wilderness, and God cared for them. Jesus, before his public teaching, went into the wilderness for forty days. You perhaps know that I love the Hebrew language. I call it my first love among languages, the seond is Greek. Anyway, in Hebrew the wilderness is called ’midbar’. This word has two parts. The first, ’mi,’ comes from ’min’ and is a prefix meaning ’less.’ And ’dbar’ comes from the word ’dabar’ meaning ’word’. So, the wilderness is a wordless place, a place where you cannot meet with anybody and you exist in silence. The wilderness is thus the best place to hear the word of God and to receive from God our calling and to understand the essence of our lives. Why? Because in the loud world of our everyday lives, it is hard to hear God. God’s presence is only heard in the silence. God will not part the clouds and shout at us to tell us what we should do, but in the silence of our room, during prayer -- and I mean pesonal prayer -- we can do converse with the Lord. I need to tell you one more thing. The eastern church tradition has a longer Advent than we do. It starts on the 17th of November, and it is a kind of Lent before Christmas. They call this time: the darkness of
the ancestors, meaning the darkness of the Old Testament because they didn’t know Jesus. „I am the light of the world,” said the Lord, but the people of the Old Testament didn’t receive this light. They were in darkness. For us of course, the whole Bible has a new and more perfect perspective because it has perfect illumination through Christ, the light of the world. In Europe, we could this term is very useful. In this season of the year, it is getting dark so early.Wearephysicallyinthedarknessoftheancestors. Buthowcanweusethis darkness in our spiritual lives? In the darkness, our vision is degraded and limited; but at the same time, as with many blind people, our hearing becomes better, more acute. Have any of you walked or hiked in the forest during the night? Every little noise seems louder. Once, I walked at night in the woods withsome friends of mine. It turned out to be not just a simple night trip but a kind of trial. There was in the forest a brook. We could hear the water burble. But we didn’t know how wide the water was. And our challenge was to jump over it. There was just one crazy guy (me) who was brave enough to jump it. The brook, which we heard like a wide river, was maybe only 50 cm, a couple feet, wide... In the darkness we yearn for the light, and it is the same in the spiritual darkness. We desire light, the true light: Jesus. „I long for the Lord more than sentries long for the dawn.” This passage from Psalm 130 shows our situation in this time when we are waiting for the coming Saviour. And it is our challenge to jump over the spiritual brook, to jump betwen the arms of God. I would like to encourage you to use the wilderness and the darkness and in the silence to be attentive to the word of God and in the darkness to yearn for the light. This is what John the Baptist has taught us. That we need to prepare ourselves to be a messenger and to be a voice in the wilderness, and that we should learn it in silence, in the presence of God. As a Christian, this is our vocation, the calling of each of us. Not just of priests, but of all baptized people. If we do it and do it without shame, we show our commitment to Christ. The wilderness around us will be blossoming. I mean by this that the world will be a better place, and like John the Baptist we will the roses of the desert. Such a wonderful utopia and vision: the whole of Christianity as a beautiful garden which announces and shines forth with the glory of God. Beloved brothers and sisters, we need to do everything to make this more than a utopia. We need to make it a reality. Let us take the first step along the path this Advent! Amen.