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2 Advent - Matthew 3:1-12

At Wednesday morning chapel this week, I tried to introduce preschoolers to Advent.

At one point, I asked them, "Who comes at Christmas?"

When in doubt, the right answer to the pastor's question is usually Jesus.

But there was no doubt; they all knew the answer.

"Santa Claus!"

I'm so glad they all paid such good attention to the end of last week's sermon.

For those who missed it, I told the story of the infamous burglar in Turkey, Bishop Nicholas of

Myra, who snuck into poor homes with gifts of money and food, the humble beginnings

of what has now become a massive global industry tracked by our government.

But imagine if some other famous, bearded saint became Santa, say, John the Baptist.

He might ride through the skies on an empty sleigh pulled by camels, wearing earth

tones and leather.

You could leave him locusts and wild honey by the fireplace, which would be gone by morning, along with most of your other stuff.

Jolly Old Saint John would kindly clear you out of all the chaff in your life, all the things that he thinks distract you away from doing good works for God.

His bag would overflow with confiscated cell phones, money, toys, televisions, computers, stereo equipment, important work files, family heirlooms, and all of my Dodger gear.

Perhaps he would graffiti an inspirational message in blood on your bare living room wall:

Repent, you brood of vipers!

Just think of how grateful you would be on Christmas morning after his visit.

For some reason, this idea never quite caught on.

Perhaps the shrieking prophet of imminent destruction is too unmarketable.

Yet the church holds onto him, and not just because the church holds onto everything regardless of whether it will ever get used again.

The church holds onto John and trots him out every Advent, because Advent, by design, is

wisely, wonderfully off-key.

As the radio plays nonstop Christmas music, we sing Advent hymns and extend silence.

As society speeds up its frantic pace to add more shopping and parties and demands, we slow down, at least theoretically.

As the world bathes itself in red and gold and green, we turn blue.

We know things are not as cheerful nor as hopeless as they seem.

There is a different way, a different kind of life, a reality in which lions and lambs can be safe

and tender with one another, and John says it has drawn near, so business as usual is


Even now the ax is lying at the root of the tree, he thunders.

Who scheduled the tree blessing for today?

It is a stroke of Holy Spirit genius, actually.

This artificial tree is expected to bear fruit.

It's branches hold a combination of Christmons—symbols of the faith that tell and celebrate

God's story—and personal ornaments from people who comprise our community,

symbols that tell and celebrate our stories within God's bigger story.

It saves a tree in the forest from an ax, which is good stewardship of our environment, including our air, and it will do this for years to come.

This is important because we are planning for life to flourish in the future.

Appearances to the contrary, Saint John agrees.

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