The Unexpected Gift
Rev. Bob Wickizer
Isaiah 42:1-9; Psalm 89:20-29; Acts 10:34-38; Luke 3:15-16,21-22
7 January 2001
The people had been talking about it for weeks how they might close up their shops for a few days and make the long two-day trek down to the Jordan River. They had heard the news from friends and merchants passing through that a man named John wearing the clothes of a desert prophet was baptizing people in the river. Roman oppression had been particularly troublesome these last few years and everyone knew that scripture pointed to a savior who would rescue Israel from her political problems. Could John be our savior they asked? A few even dared to whisper the possibility - could John be the long awaited Messiah?
At the end of two days journey, they join a crowd of people around the river. Although the excitement and anticipation is tremendous the large crowd gathered that morning is quiet. Everyone wants to hear John's preaching. They want to hear how he will fix the situation with the Romans and bring justice once again to the land of Israel. But to their surprise they encounter not a powerful military leader like King David from centuries earlier, but a grizzled old prophet named John. A prophet who in grumpy, maybe threatening tones tells them that he is not the one for whom they are waiting. He goes on to tell them that his baptism is one of preparation for the coming of someone much more powerful than he. John tells the crowd that those who are willing to come forward to be baptized with water must be ready to change their lives inside out. He ends his sermon talking about the baptism of the one who follows him saying "He will baptize all of you with the Holy Spirit and with fire."
Those who had taken time away from their city jobs and farms to travel all the way to the river divided into two groups. Some came forward with excitement as if to say "I don't care if you are the Messiah or not, I need help in changing my life and this ...
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