Psalm (Luke 1:68-79)
3:1 “In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, 2 during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3 He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, 4 as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. 5 Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; 6 and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’” (Luke 3:1-6, NRSV)
Let us pray: God of timeless grace, you fill us with joyful expectation. Make us ready for the message that prepares the way, that with open hearts and accepting minds we may eagerly await the kingdom of your Son, Jesus Christ, who reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen.
Those names are hard to pronounce. They seem obscure and superfluous. Those names at the beginning of our reading from Luke’s Gospel. Couldn’t we just skip over them and get to the heart of the passage. I didn’t know how to exactly pronounce each one and no one knows who some of them even are. Why not just pick up after the names?
But, there is not much, if anything, that is superfluous and unnecessary about them. Luke put those names in there for a reason. Luke goes to great effort to place the earth changing birth of the Messiah into context. Luke wants to anchor them in the larger political and historical scene of the world. You see, these names, these people, are headline grabbers, the ones on the front page of every magazine at the check at the check-out counter. They were people that everyone would know. It would be like saying:
In the fifteenth year of the twenty-first century, when Barack Obama was President of the United States, and John Kasich was governor of Ohio, and John Cranley mayor of Cincinnati, and Daniel J. Feigelson mayor of the Village of Indian Hill, Michael Curry was presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, and Grady Parsons was the Stated Clerk of the PCUSA and the word of the Lord came to The Indian Hill Church!
It would be as if in the year 2015 when all of these important people had positions of power and influence, the Word of the Lord did not come to them, but it came to a no name and not even in a big city like Paris, New York or Hong Kong or Washington DC or a place of religious significance like the Vatican, no the Word of the Lord came in the wilderness, the middle of nowhere.
So, you see, the names are important. They are important, because God did not come to them to get his message out. God chose a wild person, a strange person, an unconventional person, a person of little power and influence, John the Baptist, to prepare the way for Jesus. John the Baptist, this no name came to prepare for the Messiah who would be born to a no name-virgin-teenager and would be born away from the glitz of the big city. Instead will be born in a barn in the middle of nowhere. It is how God works. David Lose, Lutheran preacher says this:
So Luke begins his story by making the outrageous claim that God is at work in the weak and small – babies and barren women and unwed teenage mothers and wild-eyed prophets and itinerant preachers and executed criminals – to change the world. And, to be quite honest, God’s not done yet. God continues to work through unlikely characters today – unpopular teens and out-of-work adults and corporate executives and stay-at-home parents and underpaid secretaries and night-shift workers and police officers and volunteer basketball coaches and even preachers – to announce the news of God’s redemption.
So what’s John doing among Luke’s veritable list of “who’s who” in ancient Palestine? Well, according to Luke, John the Baptist, this itinerant preacher preaching repentance out in the wilderness – you know, the place nobody goes, at least not by choice. John the Baptist – a “nobody” by all other historical accounts – just happens to be the one to whom the Word of the Lord came. John. Not the Emperor, or governor, not a rulers, or the high priests, but John – a no count, a no body.
Oh, and the place, the wilderness is just as important. God did not choose the oval office or the red carpet at the Oscars or Wall Street or in a sanctuary in a big beautiful church to make the pronouncement of the coming of a savior. God chose John the Baptist an itinerant preacher out in the wilderness. There is something about the wilderness that does away with all the pretense of life and gets to what really matters. There is a gift that comes from the wilderness—in learning how to trust – God when all else falls away.
In the wilderness we get down to the core of who we are and who God created us to be. That is why Advent always starts in the wilderness. We have to get back to basics, to the core, to the powerlessness of each of us, in order to see the Christ child. If we stay in the places of power and control, then we don’t know that we need the Christ child. But, if we go to the wilderness where we discard the fluff of life and of ourselves, then we know how dependent we are on God and God alone. Perhaps the word of the Lord came to the wilderness, because it was the only place that would listen and hear it— the noise of the city— the places of power and prominence drown it out.
So our challenge this the second week of Advent is to allow ourselves to go into the wilderness. Go wherever the wilderness is in your life, where the fluff and securities and difficulties and stresses fade away and you get to that quiet place where you can hear, really hear the still small voice of the prophet.
The Voice of one crying out in the wilderness, prepare the way of the Lord.
And the really great news about Advent and getting ready is that it is not all up to us. Advent reminds us that we do need to do our part in getting ready, but that will never be enough. God will arrive despite us and God will get us ready.
It is the year 2015 and just maybe the voice of the Lord will be heard crying out in the wilderness of our lives. May we tune our ears and our hearts and our souls so that we might hear it, because you just never know who God might choose to deliver God’s message.
It just might be you.
 The Reverend Dr. David Lose, Working Preacher, December 2012.