Advent 2nd Sunday - B- 2017     Mark 1 : 1-8

Each year on this the 2nd Sunday  of Advent, we again meet up with that rugged and rather eccentric Old/New Testament prophet, John the Baptist. We focus the spotlight on him, and for a very good reason. It was John who prepared the people of Palestine for the immediate arrival of Jesus. He set the stage on which Jesus was to become the major actor. It is no exaggeration to say that if it had not been for John and his ministry, Jesus would not have been able to accomplish all that he did. Here it is important to realise that what John did in the first century is still needed to day.

The coming of Jesus/ Messiah is an event that requires preparation. It does not happen automatically. History makes this truth abundantly clear. Examples abound - When Jesus was born in Bethlehem it was a non-event for most of the inhabitants;  Nazareth was his hometown for many years, but for the majority of the people who lived there it had no apparent effect. Similar episodes were repeated throughout his life. He came. he lived, he loved, he taught. For some people Jesus' coming was a personal experience. It became the most important event in their lives. But for most others, they saw Jesus, listened to what he had to say and then went their way

What was the difference between those two groups of people? The difference was the people themselves. It was something in the inside - a mind-set, an attitude, the condition of their hearts. To those who were ready for him, his coming was real. But for the others?  That is why the ministry of John - to prepare the people - was of such critical importance. John did this primarily by his preaching. Mark says, 'John appeared in the desert, proclaiming a baptism of repentance'. In other words he confronted his audience with with the necessity to change their way of living. And that is still the business of Jesus to-day. He comes to us with the full intention to change our lives. How else could it be? Surely we do not suppose that Jesus is content with our little and selfish ways. Yes he accepts us as we are, but he will not allow us to remain comfortably remain that way. He sees our possibilities. And his commitment is to turn those possibilities into realities.

So for you and me, this season of Advent raises one profound question - are we willing to change?  Change: We mortals face the prospect with mixed emotions. There is something in us that wants to grow and expand. We have hopes and dreams, not only for the world, but for ourselves. But there is another part of ourselves that is fearful of change. We may not be fully satisfied with life as it is, but we are familiar with it. We have formed our attitudes and habits, and we are not sure we want to change them.  A call to change always faces this inner challenge. This is why John's ministry was so remarkable. he was able to break through all of that and set life in motion again. people who had been stubborn and unbending, now found a willingness to change.

That is such a vital attitude. All of us need it. It is one thing that you and I can bring to the process of life.

But how did John accomplish this in the life of people he met?

He led them to be dissatisfied with what they were

He made them hopeful of what they could become.

He called them to a baptism of repentance. Then he said, One one powerful than I is coming after me. I have baptised you in water; he will baptise you in the Holy Spirit. He assured them that God would be with them and in them to help them to become what they were meant to be. Their part back then,and our part to-day, is one and the same - a willingness to change. You and I must provide that willingness. if we do, then Jesus will come into our lives and do God's work through us. if we do not provide it, then his coming will have little or no affect in our lives. We will miss him.

Are you and I willing to change? That is the question.