by Bob Wickizer

Faith in the midst of Doubt
Rev. Bob Wickizer
Isaiah 35:1-10; Psalm 146:4-9; James 5:7-10; Matthew 11:2-11

Advent 3

During the four-week season of Advent, Episcopal churches around the country often lose enthusiastic newcomers. Typically the newcomer stays with us right on board with every fellowship and fund raising event until about the second or third week in Advent when they discover to their great dismay, ''I just don't understand this Advent business. You guys play strange music while everyone else is playing Christmas carols.'' I have seen Methodists and Baptists return hastily to their original churches because the Advent music they hear in Episcopal churches just doesn't seem to get them into the spirit of the season.

True enough, many people want Christmas for the gift exchange but not for the Christ child. People want Christmas for the spirit of renewal in the dead of winter without experiencing first the judgment and forgiveness of Jesus. People want to hear Christmas music in shopping malls AND in church so they don't have to deal with the uncomfortable notion that the Church fundamentally opposes much of our society and culture. Christmas music during Advent is just fine if your redeemer - the one who will literally buy you back from the wages of sin, can be found in the shopping malls, catalogs and outlet stores.

Jesus asks us plainly, ''What did you go out to the shopping malls to see? A real prophet baptizing you into the hard work of repentance or a place to get away from it all and indulge in more credit card debt?'' There is a third option here and that is we just might not be sure what we are looking for.

At the Jordan River John the Baptist was absolutely sure that this Jesus who came to him to be baptized was the messiah, the one whose sandals John said he was not fit to carry. John's confidence seemed to be an unshakable consequence of his faith, but in reality, John's own expectations about who the messiah was, what the ...

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