The Federated Church of Marlborough
Marlborough, New Hampshire


Sermon - December 4, 2016
Scripture Reading: Matthew 3:1-12
Sermon Title:
“John the Baptist

The Rev. Robert Vodra


     Is it just me, or is Christmas a lot of work.  We decorate for our holiday’s often.  Sometimes it is just little things, different placemats, maybe something hung in the windows.  We did Halloween decorations, and then those came down and we kind of missed Thanksgiving.  Not a big deal, the tablecloth will be there next year.  For Christmas this year, so far, we have a wreath.  Actually as I am writing this sermon the wreath is still in the back of the car, not even taken out yet, certainly not hung up.  So in the next few weeks we have to get a tree, put it up, and decorate it.  Has to be a live tree, and if possible Keri likes to have the family go out together and pick out the tree, cut it down and bring it back to the house.  I am sure the boys would like some Christmas lights up outside, luckily a few that I hung up last year never quite got taken down, so hopefully when I get around to plugging those in they will work, and I will put a few others, or am planning to do that.  And then shopping.  Thanks to Amazon, at least some gifts have been purchased.  And, since I have the Marlborough Federated Church as my charity on my Amazon account, the church is earning 0.5% on every purchase I make.  Not much, but makes me a feel a little bit better about getting many of my gifts from there.  The rest will come from local shops which we do try to support.

     And then all the other stuff.  Both kids have school concerts, and together they have a piano recital.  I am working on a new Christmas eve service for the church, and I do have to figure out what type of service we will have on Christmas morning.  I have a few days working on the ambulance and Keri is working for several days.  Fire department has their Christmas banquet, the town has a “Christmas in the Village” thing where you can walk around downtown Pembroke and visit the stores, most of which have something for the kids to do, make a Christmas ornament, frost a Christmas cookie, go to the Methodist church and hear some Christmas music.  And then the town PTA has a big Christmas festival which we probably will go to.  That is in addition to the normal stuff we do.  There is just a lot to do this month. 

     And in the midst of this we get a scripture like the one this morning.  Repent, I baptize with water but the one who comes after me will baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire.  If you do not bear fruit worthy of this repentance, you will be gathered up and thrown into an unquenchable fire.  Umm.  Merry Christmas? 

You see, the season of Advent was, in the past, a time to repent and prepare to celebrate the birth of our Savior.  We have moved away from that repent part, mostly, and now Advent is packed full of things to prepare for Christmas.  We have lost that time to think about what we have been doing, and how we might do it differently.  Repentance is, in my mind, a redirection.  The path we are on might not be best for ourselves or those around us, so we repent, we choose a different path, we reorganize our priorities.

     I wanted to try something a bit different this morning to think about this repentance..  This will be an exercise that will be private, you will not have to share with anyone, but I would like you to take your bulletin, find a blank margin and make a list of all the things you have to do to this month to prepare for Christmas.  This may include shopping, decorating, tree, lights, preparing your house to welcome guests.  Perhaps you will be doing some, or all of the cooking for Christmas dinner, so what preparation will that take. Don’t forget about things like school concerts, visiting family which may not live local and Christmas parties.  Just take a few moments and make that list. 

     Now that you have your list of things you need to do before Christmas, I want you to flip over the paper, or find another margin and imagine the perfect Christmas.  This has some leeway, might include Christmas Eve, or might start Christmas day.  Maybe your whole family, in whatever form that is, has gathered together.  You are able to give gifts to some or all of those gathered.  Maybe you come back to church on Christmas morning since it will be Sunday this year.  In the afternoon, will you have a big meal?  Is that the time you will make phone calls to those you cannot be with?  Maybe your perfect Christmas is a day when you can sit quietly and read.  I will give you a few minutes to think about your perfect Christmas and make some little notes about it.

     Now that you have had a bit of time to imagine your perfect Christmas, I want you to go back to your list of things that you have to do.  For each one, I want you to see if it ads anything to your perfect Christmas.  Again, this is private, so if you feel that your house has to be covered in Christmas lights in order to be your perfect Christmas, then that maybe import for you to do.  But I also think you will find some things on that list that really do not relate very well to your perfect Christmas.  Things that do not add to the perfect Christmas. 

     When I did this exercise a few days ago, I realized that there were a lot of things on my list that did not add to my perfect Christmas.  Now there are still those things I will do.  Maybe they are important to others.  But I found that I did a bit of repentance, a bit of looking at my priorities and really asking myself if they are important or if I am just doing them because I always have. 

     Although we do not go through the repentance that our ancestors did anymore, I am always in favor of looking at which direction I am going, and seeing if that is the right path.  And perhaps when we ask ourselves over and over again if we are on the right path, we will eventually bear the good fruit that John talks about.