On the Second Sunday of Advent we are reminded that a fundamental change of heart is necessary if we are to experience the coming of God’s peaceable kingdom. This change of heart is repentance, without which participation in God’s kingdom will not be possible. Matthew’s Gospel reminds us of the need to repent now.
There’s an urgency in the call of John the Baptist; the rule of God is about to break upon the world; the words of the prophets are about to be fulfilled. John’s appearance, the way he dresses and the way he behaves, quite deliberately recall the prophet Elijah. John is a new prophetic voice after centuries of silence, of patient waiting for God to act anew, and the people respond to him in large numbers.
Everyone, even the religious leaders, is eager for some new thing to set them free. It’s very important that even the most religious people repent and don’t just rely on their position in the Synagogue as evidence of their righteousness, for God’s coming activity will involve judgement as well as redemption and none will be exempt. The call must be to stop where you are and turn back to God.
This is an extract from Sheila Cameron’s sermon to the St Margaret’s congregation on 4 December. Do read the whole of it, downloadable at this link, to see the link with the picture by Edward Hicks, which comes from the online collection of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. (https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=175611)