Rev. Patricia Kriss is the pastor of First Congregational Church of Danbury.
Scripture: Matthew 3:1-12 (NRSV)
In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’ This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said,
‘The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.” ’
Now John wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.
But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Do not presume to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our ancestor”; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the axe is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
‘I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing-fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing-floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.’
Reflection: It’s a Wilderness Out There
Whenever I read the Gospel for Sunday, December 8, I instantly find myself imagining the place that John the Baptist (and before him, Isaiah) listen for the call to salvation:
"The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
'Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.'"
No matter whether yours is a quaint country church, or, like ours, a large city landmark on the corner of one of downtown Danbury’s busiest streets, we’ve all heard voices crying out in the wilderness beyond our walls. Some are easy to recognize because we’ve become attuned to them: the homeless, the destitute, the victims of prejudice, of racism, of discrimination, of injustice. Others not so much: the wailing, blaring, whooping and chirping of police cars, fire trucks and ambulances rushing to emergencies.
While we can’t avoid their sounds, which invariably occur during critical points of a service, we tend to forget their meaning. That’s unfortunate, for besides men and women responding to crises, through them these vehicles also bear the message of Matthew and of Isaiah, heard and heeded. Their selfless acts of bravery may be minimized as being “part of the job” by the callous. In truth, it’s “part of the calling,” Matthew’s and Isaiah’s. These people are truly first responders in every sense of the word and The Word: they forge paths of physical salvation and, in more cases than not, those they save thank not only them, but God.
These “distractions” during worship are really reminders — I refrained from using “wake-up calls”— and it’s only right that congregations show they understand and appreciate this in some appropriate way. In what has become an annual tradition, this Sunday our church will hold a service dedicated to Danbury’s First Responders, which includes a hymn we had commissioned in their honor. They and their families will help decorate our Sanctuary Christmas Trees with special ornaments and will listen to expressions of gratitude from our members, both young and old.
In these troubled times when, unfortunately, too many of those we might turn to for help act more like Pharisees than The Baptists, let’s remember one group remains true to God’s message.
Thank you, First Responders!
Holy One, we ask that you protectively envelop the men and women who race toward God’s children when they are in distress. We ask that you also kindle in our hearts the ember of gratitude for those who put our own well-being before their own, as the Son of a Carpenter did so long ago, and still does today. May the sounds of the wilderness move us to bring His light to a world sorely in need of compassion. We ask this in Jesus’ name. AMEN.
New Prayer Requests:
We ask churches and church leaders to join us in the following prayers either by sharing them during worship, printing them in bulletins, or sharing them in some other way. To make a prayer request, please contact Drew Page at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Prayers of Intercession:
- For those grieving for the nine passengers killed when a plane crashed in South Dakota on Saturday
- For those suffering after a shooting in New Orleans Sunday left 10 people injured
- For those grieving or suffering after several mass shootings in New Orleans, Louisiana, and Illinois left 5 dead and 20 injured on Sunday
Prayers of Joy and Thanksgiving:
- For those who work as First Responders
- For the many DOT workers who mobilize to clear roads and parking lots
- For the Season of Advent
Please Remember These Connecticut Conference Churches In Your Prayers:
East Woodstock Congregational Church UCC
Congregational Church of Easton Inc UCC
Ellington Congregational Church UCC
Enfield Congregational Church UCC
This Week in History:
December 3, 1984 (35 years ago) An explosion at a Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal, India, on December 3, 1984, leads to the worst industrial accident in history. At least 2,000 people died and another 200,000 were injured when toxic gas enveloped the city. Though Union Carbide officials were tried for negligence, non were convicted.
“Study the past if you would define the future.”