Rebel vb or Rebel n?
Luke 3:1-6

John the Baptist was a bit of a rebel.  Responding to a calling from God he came in from the wilderness and began to preach a message of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  Luke names a list of rulers who probably wouldn’t have been happy with this scruffy looking prophet from the desert coming to the people and trying to put things right, especially if they thought that the one who was coming would take over their leadership from them.

Yet he came proclaiming boldly, “to prepare the way of the Lord; to make his paths straight”, this is the message of the prophet Isaiah and John the Baptist is here to put it into practice.  Times are about to change people, hear ye, hear ye!  The mountains are about to move, the whole landscape will change, crooked will become straight and rough will become smooth.  But most importantly, all flesh will see the salvation of God.

Is it time for us to do a similar thing, is there a need to call the world to repentance and make the way straight for the coming of the kingdom of God?  I think it is. 

Many would say that we now live in a post-Christian society, that our society has become more secular than Christian or in some parts of the world other faiths have taken precedent.  Perhaps the world view right now is not so different from the time of John the Baptist, with everyone looking out for themselves and building their own kingdoms, trying to take what is someone else’s for their own benefit.

We could also say in some ways that the those of us who would call ourselves a part of the kingdom of God, the church, aren’t that different to the rest of society.  We are distracted by the need to get ahead, to have all the right ‘toys’ in our houses, garages and driveways, we work too hard to have time to play, we focus on our own needs instead of the needs of others and building the kingdom of God is fairly low on the agenda for a fair majority of us.  So John’s message is for us too especially during this Advent as season as we journey along the path to Christmas.

What’s getting in the way for you?  Are you busy finishing up for the year, meeting deadlines and attending parties?  Are you too busy shopping to have time for friends and family?  Are there other things happening in your lives that are making the path a little rough for you to travel and are therefore creating a distraction for you?

Are there any mountains that need to be levelled or valleys that need to be filled in, is there anything that needs straightening out or smoothing over?  How can we help, is there anything that any of us gathered here today to worship God can do, to help you take the journey to Christmas without all of the clutter of life getting in the way?

When you think about it we need to start with ourselves don’t we?  With the ones gathered here today.  How can we proclaim a message of the coming of the kingdom of God if we aren’t living in it ourselves?

When you think about it, John the Baptist was living a very simple life out in the wilderness; it enabled him to hear the voice of God and see his way clear to follow through on it.  Maybe there is something to be learned from that.  His message was for all flesh, that is, every person from creation to eternity should see the salvation of God, by repenting, turning from their sinful self-indulgent ways and receiving the forgiveness of sins, which was won for us through Jesus.

I’m going to pause for a little while and create a short period of uncomfortable silence for you.  It’s not often that we pause and allow a time of silence in the middle of the sermon, but I would like you to use this time to have a think about the things that are getting in the way of your relationship, your connection with Jesus during this advent season.  Are there things that you can ask him to remove for you?  Use this time to pray, for yourself or for others around you.

A minute or so of silence ensues!

Let’s make this Advent season a time of de-cluttering, of freeing up some time to hear the voice of God calling through his Word, through preaching and teaching, in hymns and songs and carols, calling us to repent, to return to him and receive the forgiveness that he freely and willingly gives us.  Let’s rebel against the pull and pressure of our society to conform to the materialist things of life and keep it simple, let’s be rebels with a cause, and do this Christmas season differently to society and worship the Son of God who came into the world for our salvation, let’s treasure these things like Mary and let them remain firmly in our hearts and minds as we journey together with the whole church on earth.

And maybe as we go we can share our hope, our vision and our faith with those around us by becoming quiet and caring prophets as we through our actions make the path just that little bit smoother for others to see the salvation of God too.

Amen.