Wednesday, December 31, 2014

End of 2014

Here in the United States, we're hours away from saying, "Good-bye!" to 2014. I am fine with seeing this year go away and become part of the history books. The year had a difficult and sad beginning for me. Multiple airplane trips north with delays, cancelled flights due to ice and snow in Atlanta, and unexpected stays in Baltimore and Jacksonville...all were part of the difficulties and trauma associated with the eventual death of my mom. She passed away on February 7th, and I was back with my partner in New Hampshire for my birthday for her funeral a week later. 

Losing my mom was different than when I lost my dad. Dad's death awakened my faith; mom's death put it more to the test. This might account for why I haven't been posting as much on this blog during the year. She was my most avid reader and would comment regularly. With her gone, this space has sometimes felt as if I'm talking to the trees, and just another reminder of her death. I started this blog in the wake of my dad's death and as a way of processing my faith journey, particularly as I returned to a church that had a reputation for homophobia before it split in October, 2005. With my mom's death, I also experienced something of a more symbolic death in having left that church in Tallahassee to join my new congregation, St. Thomas in Thomasville, GA. There I am opening to new life. I'm singing in the choir, serving as a Eucharistic Minister, lector and will be leading an EfM group. And my discernment process continues. In Georgia, it's allowed to continue because my sexual orientation doesn't pose a problem. 

Which brings me back to my faith. It has suffered some knocks but it hasn't waivered and, in fact, has been sinking deeper roots to draw up the Source to keep me centered. Something about having lost an important and central figure in my life has made me reflect on the importance of letting go of certainty and holding onto things. The worst pain seems to come from becoming overly attached to people, places or things and expecting that nothing will change. The one thing that will always remain is that Source which continues flowing like a constant river and even as all other things fall away and become part of my memories, I can continue to drink from that river. Without it, I don't know how I'd manage.

This blog will continue. I will post as I am moved to share that drink with all of you. Happy New Year and may 2015 bring new lessons. 


Monday, December 29, 2014

History and the Holy Innocents

There is some doubt about whether King Herod's fear-filled directive to execute all the baby boys in Bethlehem actually happened as was stated in Matthew's gospel.  But the history of Wounded Knee is real. A friend posted this account today on Facebook:

From today's Writer's Almanac by Garrison Keillor
Today is the anniversary of the massacre at Wounded Knee, which took place in South Dakota in 1890. Twenty-three years earlier, the local tribes had signed a treaty with the United States government that guaranteed them the rights to the land around the Black Hills, which was sacred land. The treaty said that not only could no one move there, but they couldn't even travel through without the consent of the Indians.
But in the 1870s, gold was discovered in the Black Hills, and the treaty was broken. People from the Sioux tribe were forced onto a reservation, with a promise of more food and supplies, which never came. Then in 1889, a native prophet named Wovoka, from the Paiute tribe in Nevada, had a vision of a ceremony that would renew the earth, return the buffalo, and cause the white men to leave and return the land that belonged to the Indians. This ceremony was called the Ghost Dance. People traveled across the plains to hear Wovoka speak, including emissaries from the Sioux tribe, and they brought back his teachings. The Ghost Dance, performed in special brightly colored shirts, spread through the villages on the Sioux reservation, and it scared the white Indian agents. They considered the ceremony a battle cry, dangerous and antagonistic. So one of them wired Washington to say that he was afraid and wanted to arrest the leaders, and he was given permission to arrest Chief Sitting Bull, who was killed in the attempt. The next on the wanted list was Sitting Bull's half-brother, Chief Big Foot. Some members of Sitting Bull's tribe made their way to Big Foot, and when he found out what had happened, he decided to lead them along with the rest of his people to Pine Ridge Reservation for protection. But it was winter, 40 degrees below zero, and he contracted pneumonia on the way.
Big Foot was sick, he was flying a white flag, and he was a peaceful man. He was one of the leaders who had actually renounced the Ghost Dance. But the Army didn't make distinctions. They intercepted Big Foot's band and ordered them into the camp on the banks of the Wounded Knee Creek. Big Foot went peacefully.
The next morning federal soldiers began confiscating their weapons, and a scuffle broke out between a soldier and an Indian. The federal soldiers opened fire, killing almost 300 men, women, and children, including Big Foot. Even though it wasn't really a battle, the massacre at Wounded Knee is considered the end of the Indian Wars, a blanket term to refer to the fighting between the Native Americans and the federal government, which had lasted 350 years.
One of the people wounded but not killed during the massacre was the famous medicine man Black Elk, author of Black Elk Speaks (1932) . Speaking about Wounded Knee, he said: "I did not know then how much was ended. When I look back now from this high hill of my old age, I can still see the butchered women and children lying heaped and scattered all along the crooked gulch as plain as when I saw them with eyes still young. And I can see that something else died there in the bloody mud, and was buried in the blizzard. A people's dream died there. It was a beautiful dream."

Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Word Became Flesh and The Holy Innocents

Almighty God, you have poured upon us the new light of

your incarnate Word: Grant that this light, enkindled in our

hearts, may shine forth in our lives; through Jesus Christ our

Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy

Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
(Collect for the First Sunday After Christmas, BCP)

The First Sunday After Christmas pushes the commemoration of the Holy Innocents to Monday this year; however in the Church of the Wake Up and Live blog, I am placing them side-by-side.

Slaughter of the Holy Innocents by Duccio

We remember today, O God, the slaughter of the holy 
innocents of Bethlehem by King Herod. Receive, we pray, 
into the arms of your mercy all innocent victims; and by your 
great might frustrate the designs of evil tyrants and establish 
your rule of justice, love, and peace; through Jesus Christ 
our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the 
Holy Spirit,, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(Collect for the Holy Innocents, BCP)

I understand the need for the church to keep these days separated, so that each may receive their due respect and reflection and remembrance. But the more I survey the cultural landscape, and the more I consider where I see the church fitting in to a world increasingly crowded with people and competing wants and desires, the more I felt the need to see these two occasions as the Yin and Yang of what's out there in our every day lives.

The slaughter of the Holy Innocents is Herod's fearful response to the news that there's a new king that's been born in Bethlehem. To stave off any future rival, Herod orders all baby boys two years and younger to be killed. Hence, we have the grisly scene of baby upon baby slain by the sword, none of whom were Jesus because God gave warning to Joseph in his dreams to get his family the heck out of there before the soldiers arrived. Jesus lived, but many others died. For the tyrant, any threat, real or perceived, to their absolute power and authority over others will drive them to do violence. They are the people still walking in darkness and determined to keep everyone else in the dark with them.

Which is why remembering the Gospel for today's First Sunday After Christmas is an important antidote to the destructive and power-hungry forces of the day. John opens his telling of Christ's life not with the manger scene, but with the establishment that this Word, that has been made flesh, was with God from the beginning, and this Word was the Light of the world. With this light now in the world, no amount of darkness will overcome it. This light will be the glowing flame that will challenge conventions, and blaze a trail of freedom and life for those with the courage to follow. And this light will shine into those places where those opponents, who wish to grow the darkness, least want to see. Darkness will attempt to overcome this light. But, as we learn at the other end of this story, not even death can put out this light.

In our world fraught with anger and division and with the abuse of power, the light continues to shine. It comes through every broken or cracked vessel who calls him or herself a child of God or a follower of Christ or on the path to whatever carries them closer to that Light of the world, and believes that light will be greater than the darkness. It comes from the trust that the light in the heart will fill the entire body and be the outward and visible sign to those still fumbling in the dark. This is the light that becomes more powerful when people committed to increasing the light in the world come together for the common purpose of igniting a bonfire that will burn away the darkness. Let this light so shine out in the darkness even in the face of opposition.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

St. John, Teach Us

Shed upon your Church, O Lord, the brightness of your light; that we, being illumined by the teaching of your apostle and evangelist John, may so walk in the light of your truth, that at length we may attain to the fullness of eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Sandwiched between yesterday's stoning death of St. Stephen and tomorrow's massive slaughter of the Holy Innocents, we have the Feast Day of St. John, the evangelist. And the words of his collect serve as a reminder that this poetic and contemplative Gospel writer wants us to reflect on a key image of this Christmas season: the Light of Christ which has come back into our winter days. Even for those living in the Southern Hemisphere, where the light is at its height of summer, there is something about that abundance of the sun that can lead one to reflect upon the grace that comes to us through the Son, the Light from Light.

As I think about the illumination of who Christ was as the Son of God that comes through John's Gospel, I think about the ways in which we can carry that light forward so many centuries later. Like the way we pass the flame of a candle to our neighbors in the pews when we sing, "Silent Night," we can pass the light through small gestures of kindness to our fellow human beings as well as bigger statements and testimonies to that Light by standing with our neighbors during their times of darkness and struggle. I give thanks for all those who take care of the elderly and children, whether for money or for love. I also pray for those who seek the Light that they may encounter someone who will reach them in such a way that their newly-lit wick will burn in their hearts forever. Come, Spirit of water and blood, come.

Friday, December 26, 2014

The Martyrdom of St. Stephen

We give you thanks, O Lord of glory, for the example of the 
first martyr Stephen, who looked up to heaven and prayed 
for his persecutors to your Son Jesus Christ, who stands at 
your right hand; where he lives and reigns with you and the 
Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

The first few days of the Christmas season are, well, gruesome. It's as if the church hired the Grimm Brothers to lay out the lectionary so that we won't forget that amidst the joy and celebration of the birth of Christ, we are never without those stories of death, especially violent death. The story of Stephen's martyrdom is that this young man was among the true believers, and an early deacon, spreading the news of Christ. He was unwilling to back down from his convinction in Christ, and, like Jesus, he found himself brought up on trumped up charges because he was calling out fellow Jews. The end for Stephen wasn't pretty. He was dragged out into the street and stoned to death, while Saul (later to be St. Paul) looking on.

On this night, perhaps it is best to take a moment to remember all those who are killed for conscience or have their lives cut short because they are following their call. For all those willing to put their lives on the line, we give thanks. We remember you, and we pray for those who persecute others that they may be delivered from their cruelty, hatred and revenge as we also ask that our hearts not turn to stone in the face of violence.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Looking for That Light in the Darkness

"The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. Those who have lived in a land of deep darkness on them a light has shined." These are the opening lines that we always hear from the prophet Isaiah on Christmas Eve as our Episcopal service progresses toward the greatest light that Christians have known in the darkest times: the light of Christ. That light, for many of us, is like the steady glow of a lighthouse that breaks through the thickest, most pea-soup type of fog so that we may find our way home. It is an unfailing light which we can see best when we open our eyes.

If there was ever a time when I feel that I need this light to shine, now would be it. As I've been blogging throughout this Advent, it seems that this celebration of the nativity of Christ is coming at a time when our nation is going through painful realizations of how deep our divisions are along color lines. We are still locked in a battle over whether marriage equality is legal, let alone OK, in the state of Florida with lawyers looking for any minute loophole they can find in a federal judges' order to keep lesbian and gay couples as second-class citizens. Police officers are wantonly gunned down in New York City and instead of seeing this as more evidence of the proliferation of guns and the problems of mentally ill people getting guns, there is more yelling, more fingerpointing, more blaming anyone or anything than the individual who committed the crime and the powers that colluded to give him access to a weapon. We are in a scream fest and we are at each others throats while the band plays on.

In many respects, this upheaval and disquiet is similar to the world in which the Word became flesh and shined a new light. There was oppression. The haves were quite satisfied to be the haves, and not always doing the social contract duty of looking out for the children and the widows. Some worked in collusion with the Roman authorities to burden the Israelites with taxes. There was fracturing and division. Different stressors. Different times. No internet or Twitter feed, but still, things were out-of-whack. This is the world into which Christ is born. And this birth is the hope of a people searching for a Messiah.

In our world today, we may not have a baby being born in a barn somewhere who will take on the role of Messiah. Instead, what I think is expected is for us to realize that the birth of Christ is not merely an outward and visible sign, depicted sweetly in a creche, but rather it is the birth of the spirit of Christ in us to grow as he did from that baby dependent on the love of a mother and the dreams of a father to survive into the man who would see the disparities, discord and brokenness of his time and tend to the person in need while calling out the forces that caused the injury in the first place. Jesus didn't make his statements so much as personal indictments of individuals, but he would question the motivation of the individuals which contributed to systematic oppression. We are being asked to do the same as we look at our world today. Who are the people being kept down, being left out, still sitting in darkness? What is colluding to hold them back? This where the light of Christ is ready to enter. Are we willing to be that light?

 O God, you have caused this holy night to shine with the
brightness of the true Light: Grant that we, who have known
the mystery of that Light on earth, may also enjoy him
perfectly in heaven; where with you and the Holy Spirit he
lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.


Sunday, December 21, 2014

Are We Ready For This Visitation at Advent Four

Four candles are burning on the Advent wreath now. In our interfaith household, we are also lighting not one, but two, menorrahs on either side of the mantlepiece in our living room. And as I stare into the flames dancing on these candles, I think about the nature of fire as a blazing energy and a purifying force.  

We warn children not to play with fire. There's danger involved with burning things up, and we can see where it can be a destructive force when it is wild fire in a forest, or a house that has gone up in flames. Habitat is destroyed, animals and people can be displaced. Objects that are of value can be reduced to ash. Brings a new meaning to the liturgical phrase, "Ashes to ashes, dust to dust." This would be the destructive energy of fire. 

But there is also the fire energy that comes from a hearth or a wood stove, providing heat and warmth or even light to a room. We use fire to sterilize the end of a needle if we are using it to help do something like take a splinter out of a finger. A blacksmith forges metal in the fire. And we have the expresssion about having "a fire in the belly" as a way of saying that we have a passion to act on something or make things happen. In other words, fire, like so many things, have the potential to be both destructive and purifying. Even when things get burned away, there is always the possibility for new growth.

I'm in the midst of reading the Rev. Eric Law's book, "The Bush Was Burning But Not Consumed." Law discusses the factors that can lead to what he calls "unholy fire" of either/or and win/lose type of thinking where we set ourselves up as the judge over another as opposed to recognizing God as the ultimate judge and authority. He brought up an example of a conversation he had with a woman who was his chauffer and liason to a conference workshop. The day he had arrived was the day of the verdict in the OJ Simpson case. Before that had gotten very far in their initial contact at the airport, this woman wanted to know from him if he believed OJ Simpson was guilty or not. Rev. Law felt the crackling of the unholy fire coming for if he answered that he thought OJ Simpson was guilty, then this woman was loaded for bear and ready to tell him all the reasons why Simpson was innocent. If he said he thought he was not guilty, he was going to be lying about his own feelings. He made her promise to stay in dialogue with him, which she did. So, he told her that his initial response to the verdict was that he thought he was guilty...

The woman interrupted and wanted to argue. But he implored her to please listen and keep to the bargain they'd made about staying in dialogue. She quited down enough to hear out his reaction and they continued their dialogue over dinner, calmy and listening to one another. And the big reveal was that Law's reason for believing OJ Simpson was guilty was based in his own gut repulsion to men commiting violence against women. He goes on to say that the workshop went very well because the Simpson case became the centerpoint for discussion. Rather than get into the unholy finger-pointing and name-calling that can result in brokenness, the fire fueling the discussions came in the grace to open the ears and listen to one another and be willing to experience the discomfort of hearing things that may not fit in with one's worldview and be OK with that.

With that in mind, imagine what kind of fire it must have been for a young Jewish girl named Mary to have the Archangel Gabriel appear to her and announce that she will be having a baby, and not just any baby, but the Son of God?! The way Luke tells the story, Mary seemed pretty calm about something that for many of us, I think, would have sent us running and screaming from the room. Her life was about to take a radical turn into an off-road adventure. Somehow, I think she might have been a little more than "perplexed" by this message. 

But Mary, the Theotokos, may have been actually more evolved in her way of responding than most others, which is, perhaps, why she became the God bearer. Luke doesn't let us go inside her head to know what all the little voices were saying. But the one clear voice she heard through that Archangel was the voice of God reminding her that she can have her doubts and still be "the most highly favored lady." Because not only with God is everything possible; with God the unholy fire that leads one to want to run from the difficult path is made holy by turning that fear into faith.

How does that relate to our world today? I think we, as a nation, are facing many situations that call us to walk into the fire, all of us, in the trust that we will be put to the test and we will emerge in a better place. The raising of the consciousness of white America to the inequities experienced by people of color at the hands of law enforcement and the judicial system presents an opportunity for us to enter into the flames of purification and come out of that fire to refine those things that need to change to bring about justice. This work isn't easy.  It will be an off-road adventure. And it is necessary, and I believe it can be accomplished if we allow God to be at work in us as the One who will take our unholy fires and make them holy.  

And so we pray...

Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation,
that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a
mansion prepared for himself; who lives and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Things Getting Stirred at Advent Three

Last week, we heard in the reading from the prophet Isaiah to "Comfort, o comfort, my people." And we had the edgy odd character John the Baptist wandering in from the dessert to preach a message of repentance, or a call to rethink and reconsider your ways, because there was one coming who was much greater than himself. Those were good words to carry with us into the week as we were greeted with more news that likely rattled our cage of comfort. The Senate released a report on the types of tactics our country used to extract information from terrorist suspects. The details of the report were genuinely revolting. Locally, black churches in Wakulla County have had "KKK" spray painted on their marquees. And the budget Congress has sent to the President seems to give more breaks to big banks and wealthy campaign donors further tipping the scales of equality in our economy and politics in favor of the haves over the have nots. Are we hearing the prophetic call to repent?
I attended a lecture series held by Temple Israel and St. John's Episcopal Church which featured a Christian Hebrew Bible scholar named Dr. Ellen Davis of Duke Univeristy's Divinity School. Her topic was the Book of Leviticus. Normally, I would stick my fingers in my ears and repeat, "La la la la" whenever this particular part of the Bible comes up for the obvious reason that I'm a lesbian and am sick of hearing hate-filled people use the verse at Leviticus 18:22 as a means of denying my goodness and the grace extended to me. Thankfully, Dr. Davis didn't narrow in on that verse; instead, she went to Chapter 19, which she describes as the "Reader's Digest-version" of all that one needs to know and understand about this particular part of Torah. She describes Leviticus as a "right-brain book," meaning it is much more poetic and metaphorical in its language than what our normally left-brained selves would expect. That's one of the many reasons one must not read Leviticus with intention of using it literally. Another important point that she made is that the author of Leviticus, whoever that Priestly writer is, did not separate the expectations of ritual purity from moral purity. They are intertwined, and so one cannot, or should not, claim to follow the moral purity codes while rejecting the ritual purity because they are often at play with each other all the time. What I found particularly fascinating was the point she made on the second, and concluding, night of this lecture series. She noted that the covenantal relationship in Leviticus is not just between God and humanity; God has a covenant with the land, and is in the land. And our covenantal relationship is not just with God, but with the land itself. Therefore, failing to keep the covenant with the land and treat it with same love and respect that we are to treat our own bodies is a violation of that relationship, and, in Leviticus, there is language that essentially allows the land to "vomit us up." 
Dr. Davis is most interested in the use of our land for purposes of farming, and certainly we have been guilty of sin there, too, with rampant development and genetic engineering to make crops produce more and grow at times they normally would not. I would say, and listening to her I imagine she would agree, that when we fail to treat one another with the love and dignity and respect we all desire, then we are inviting God and the land to expel us. Her lecture certainly stirred a lot of thinking in me as I reviewed the landscape of our current culture!
Which then brings us to today's readings, specifically the words of the prophet Isaiah.

The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
   because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
   to bind up the broken-hearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
   and release to the prisoners; 
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour,
   and the day of vengeance of our God;
   to comfort all who mourn; 
to provide for those who mourn in Zion—
   to give them a garland instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
   the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit. (Is.61:1-3)

As I watched footage of the National Action Network's march in Washington, saw the many photos from the march occuring in New York City, and even in the small Dance for Justice march that took place in Tallahassee, I could see and feel the spirit that is upon us. I get the sense that there is a desire growing in the country for real change. Like with all movements of the spirit such as this, there is also the push back. Not everybody wants to engage in changing the systems or modifying personal habits in favor of helping the greater community. But once the movement begins, it isn't an easy thing to go back to how things were before. 

This is the spirit that is growing brighter as we light the third candle on our Advent wreaths. This is the approach of Christ coming into the world to rattle it some more in the never ending pursuit of infusing Love into our daily experience. Now is the time for that real presence to become flesh.

Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come
among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins,
let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver
us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and
the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Heeding the Call of the Prophets at Advent Two

The gospel reading for this Sunday starts, "The beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Son of God."

In our ears today, when we hear the phrase, "Good News," it can produce a feeling of relief, of warmth, of being comfortable with what we are about to receive from the teller of this news. But then the next lines come as a distant refrain from the prophet Isaiah:

‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
   who will prepare your way; 
the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
   “Prepare the way of the Lord,
   make his paths straight” ’, 

Is that "good news"? The voice of the one crying out in the wilderness is John the Baptizer, a locust and honey-eating counterculturalist who has wandered into the scene calling for the people to be baptized in repentence for the forgiveness of sins. Is that "good news"? Imagine if today, we were faced with a person who "ain't from 'round here" telling us to look at ourselves, see the ways in which we are broken from our connections to our neighbor, and choose to change and move toward Love? How receptive would we be to this news?

Many priests and preachers are wrestling with this Scripture as they craft their sermons to be delivered to a congregation of people who may or may not want to hear what they have to say. Quite often, the one preaching is that person who is the messenger being sent ahead to give the people the "Good News," in the hopes that there will be a response to that news. Today, many of those same priests and preachers are likely looking at our current state of affairs in this country and wondering, "What do I say?" One person on Facebook who is facing such a situation asked the question, "Where are the prophets today?" I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of people are staring into the screens of their computers and laptops wondering the same thing. I did, too, as I went about formulating this post. In my staring, praying, and meditations, I kept coming back to another gospel passage which we won't typically encounter until we're deeper into Lent:

Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! (Luke 13:34)

I kept thinking about the question of "Where are the prophets?" I believe that we are killing them. The prophets aren't the heroes or the beautiful people. Frequently, they are the average workers, the stutterers, and the ones who are the least likely to be seen as a "leader." They are reluctant participants in God's overall plan, and yet they trust enough to follow. Today, I think they are the ones who are doing what they can to keep body and soul together in this world. They're the ones saying, "I can't breathe" "I don't have a gun. Stop shooting!" and their deaths are raising up the voices of new prophets who are taking to the streets, tape over their mouths in some cases, or lying down in the major intersection of a city. They are calling us to take a good, long look at our systems, and how they are skewed and how some of us benefit while others are left to wonder if they are worth anything at all to anyone. I doubt that Eric Garner, or Michael Brown, or any of the others shot and killed by police would call themselves "prophets."  But what their deaths have done is raise some important prophetic questions for us to wrestle with and highlight the need for a new approach and better training of our police officers. For me, as a white person, it has forced me to consider that for my black brothers and sisters, not even the courts are a place where they feel safe and will receive a fair shake. Not even a videotape of what happened was enough to bring a grand jury indictment so we could have a trial in the death of Eric Garner. The non-indictment of the officer who used an illegal chokehold in his death was so upsetting to me that I felt the same sense of grief and horror that I felt when I saw the images of people stranded in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Upon hearing the news out of New York, all I could do was reach out to one of my black friends, and cry, and repeat, "I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry." 

We need to listen to the call of these new prophets. We must be willing to repent and return to Love by committing to real change. This is what John the Baptizer was telling the people of First Century Palestine as he warned them of a one who was coming, and this is the drumbeat we are are hearing now.

 Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to
preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation:
Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins,
that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our
Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy
Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.