Processional Drama from Isaiah 40: 1-11
In the wilderness prepare the way of the Holy One,
Make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

Every valley shall be lifted up,
And every mountain and hill made low;
The uneven ground shall become level,
And the rough places a plain.

The prophet walks to the altar, completes the verse holding up staff in both hands to heaven facing the congregation:

Then the glory of God shall be revealed,
And all people shall see it together,
For the mouth of our God has spoken. (“The Prophet” leaves after placing the staff near the second Advent Candle.)

Scripture Mark 1:1-8
The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
As it is written in 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,’”
John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

“Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord”  this was played from the musical Godspell
Our processional prophet— Isaiah, and John the Baptist in our gospel reading are calling us to Prepare the way of the Lord
Last week we were given the task of Keeping awake,

Mark’s Gospel cuts to the chase.
There is no angelic visitation, pregnant mother, perplexed father, Angel chorus, or magi from the East,
There is simply, the telling of good news by a wild and crazy prophet.
Mark, is down to earth, and loves God in the world of the flesh, hurting, sinful, excluded, and broken flesh.

We are called by John the Baptist to get on the road.
He tells us to set our feet in the direction of God’s new age.
John challenges us to get rid of excess baggage, focus on what’s essential, and get moving on the road God is preparing for us.
And according to this text John is well versed in the Prophet Isaiah, whom he quotes…
In 2nd Isaiah— the middle portion of the book
the writer was also warning the people
Something was happening, a new world was on the horizon.
Make haste!
A way is being made where there was no way!
The Holy One is coming!
God comes to save and heal.
Let us clap our hands, open our hearts, and go to work to prepare for God’s new age.

Our preparation today is challenging,
just as it was 2000 years ago: we prepare during difficult times,
just as John the Baptist and the prophet Isaiah did.
Oppression abounded in John’s and Isaiah’s time; it still does; racism was normalized then, as it is now;
religious and political relationships were greatly divided, the same as today;
leaders had little care for the common people and perpetuated poverty and the gap between the wealthy and poor, and they still do.

But we still live in hope of a new dawn, a day of justice, of the uplifting of the poor, and the liberation of the captives.

Isaiah had good news, and the people were urged to make way for good news in their lives, a transformation of their situation.
There was reason to hope
The powers that be, in their case, Babylon, had been overturned.
The mighty had fallen, and the “little” people could dance with joy.
Walter Brueggemann refers to this as “Isaiah poetry” that “calls Israel to enact a transformed life in the world.

So the announcement of God’s new manner of leading comes to the people of Israel, creating a new possibility for their returning from exile— homecoming… and a new opportunity for shared or communal joy”

Brueggemann goes on to claim that “the poetic, lyrical, liturgical practice of hope is foundational for the sustenance of an odd community” “ and makes them very difficult indeed to keep in place and under control.”

(Bruggerman, Walter “Texts that Linger, Words that Explode: Listening to Prophetic Voices,” Fortress Press.)

An odd community, difficult to keep in place and under control…

We are an odd community… of misfits, you might even say.
Those who were going out to the dessert in John’s day…heeding his call for repentance and baptism, I imagine they were a group of misfits working at preparing the way of the Lord

Which reminds me, of all things… of Rudolph
so here is some gospel according to Rudolph
Rudolph the red nosed reindeer
Did you know that the Rudolph story was created for a give away at Montgomery Wards stores in 1939?
Written by Robert May who was given the rights to his story in 1947,
in 1948 it was shown as a 9 minute short cartoon in theaters,
May’s brother in law, Johnny Marks wrote the lyrics to the song sung by Gene Autry in 1949
and the story was made into a cartoon feature in 1964..
The cartoon narrated by the late Burl Ives is one my favorites— it was on CBS last night

Rudolph is a misfit because he has a red nose, he’s different
You know he was not allowed to play the reindeer games with the other reindeer
And he meets a misfit elf, Hermey, who does not want to make toys but wants, of all things, to be a dentist

Image #: 904522 “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” the longest-running holiday special in television history, celebrates its 40th anniversary broadcast on Wednesday, December 1, 2004. CBS /Landov

The 2 misfits leave Christmastown and strike out together
And along the way they stumble onto an island of misfit toys in the Artic
Toys that don’t seem to be normal… they long to belong to children who would play with them… begging Rudolph to tell Santa about them when they return to Christmastown

Misfits seem to find each other and feel at home with one another
A red nosed reindeer, dentist elf and misfit toys make up a pretty odd community

After several twists and turns Rudolph and Hermey return to Christmastown
And Rudolph saves the day or night when his shinny nose can lead Santa’s sleigh on a stormy Christmas eve

There is a scene toward the end of the cartoon when some of the misfit toys are waiting on this stormy Christmas eve
Its late and they begin to give up hope
Charlie in the box and a doll believe that another Christmas has come and gone and they will again not go with Santa to be gifts for children
Charlie says they might as well go to bed and dream of next Christmas
The doll, with tears in her eyes, confesses she hasn’t any dreams left to dream

I would be willing to bet most of us have felt like a misfit now and then… and some of us are discouraged as we wait for the unfolding of our dreams
and others don’t even dare to dream anymore
the church today is full of misfits… we are an odd community of misfits
We don’t have a red nose of wish to be dentists…. we are an odd community of misfits because we have hope
Because we dare to hope. Because we hope that God’s love will prevail
That God’s justice will prevail.

It has been said by one rabbi that it was God, not the people, who needed to be comforted in the wake of the destruction of the temple and the land.
It was God whose dreams were wanting
“We should be comforting God, not expecting God to comfort us, says this particular sage”
(The Storyteller”s Companion to the Bible, Volume 7, Abingdon).

We are being called to prepare the way for the Lord, during Advent and beyond
We are part of an odd community of misfits
There is reason to hope
hope is a fundamental principal of our faith… and necessary for our odd community of misfits to keep moving forward
let us live lives transformed— preparing the way of the Lord
inviting other misfits to join us… to come home.
in doing so, I believe we will comfort God and find comfort ourselves. Amen