Date: December 4, 2016
SCRIPTURE: ISAIAH 11: 1
6; MATTHEW 3: 1
GRACE COVENANT PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, ASHEVILLE, NC
December 4, 2016
The Rev. Dr. Marcia Mount Shoop, Pastor
A 600 page book tells me the story of the Christmas of my dreams in
of my Christmas vision
thin pages crowded with
needs answered, and dreams come true
the template for
the perfect Christmas morning c
The details of that expectant story are woven together in the pages of that
The Sears Catalogue
otherwise known as the Wish Book.
The list of things I want include page numbers and item descriptio
ns, carefully laid
out on sever
al sheets of paper
entitled “Marcia’s Christmas List.”
Listed in order of importance, this year a go
kart is #1.
Christmas morning co
mes and there is much delight: n
ew pajamas, a new coat, a
new set of roller skates with rubber stoppers that match the w
but no go
No matter how many times that go
which eventually turns into a dirt bike and
then a moped, gets put on the list, it is never a part of a Christmas morning at the
Somehow it curiously was at my fri
end Amy’s house
but that’s another sermon for
The #1 thing, the core piece of the Christmas story I longed for, never turned out to
Christmas magic wasn’t about getting everything
I wanted. No matter how much
that big book told
me it was.
The people of Israel had their own book
pages of stories, metaphors, and
generations of expectations.
Shoots coming up from dead tree stumps
new life, long
awaited leaders coming
from a family tree that had been cut down.
Our oldest faith stories, our oldest tales of what to wish for are
disappointment, from hopes dashed.
John the Baptist
was a man who
disturbed the powers that be not just with his
but with his impact.
He fulfilled the expec
tations of stories passed down. He created expectat
s that took hold for a future that
unfolded well after he
And he disrupted other stories
the stories of identi
ty, the stories of
entitlement, the stories of what piety and power look like.
John the Baptist was a Jewish prophet, with his own disciples.
He makes an abrupt
appearance in Matthew’s Gospel
a Gospel writer who highly valued fulfilling the
expectations of prophecy
se core stor
ies that shaped the hopes
aspirations of the people of Israel.
John ate locusts and honey
an obvious sign that he was not from polite society. He
what the poor who lived in the desert ate.
And while ritual washings were typical i
n Jewish practice, John riffed on that with a
radical turn. No more repeated ritual cleansings
John’s baptism was a once and for
all sacrament of repentance.
He was a descendent of devout and royal priests
. He emerges from the wilder
nated man, a
man with no patience for hypocrisy, a man
uncompromising in his call for integrity in the life of faith.
and its fruits
prepare the way for the Lord. What we do matter
How we live matters. He tells
those with formal power in the world of institutionalized
religion: “You are
.” “You are not
.” “You are accountable for your actions.”
Not the man of our dreams, I venture to say.
rophets like John t
a threat to the social
of his time
system built on the exploitation of the peasant class by the aristocracy. John the
Baptist was a threat
message of social justice led to his
arrest, his imprisonment, an
d his execution.
John the Baptist told anyone who would listen to get ready
for the one who would
come after him
a man with the power to
blow our cover
us who we really are