In pm's words
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December 8, 2016, 12:00 AM

the one where God failed marketing 101 - Thank God.


Mid-Week Advent Sermon from December 7, 2016

Text: Matthew 3: 1-12

Grace and peace to y’all this evening. Welcome to the second of our Wednesday Evening Advent Services. I continue to pray that these intentional breaks within our week allow you to better focus and open yourselves to God’s presence in your life as we wait in expectant hope during this season.

Whenever I think of Advent – and the wait leading into Christmas – I have to be honest, there’s a pretty important figure within our faith that I usually zip right past. It’s not that this individual is ‘bad’ or not ‘relevant.’ Far from it, in fact his is a voice that we at times most desperately need to hear.

I wonder at times if the reason why I at times ‘skip’ past him is because God didn’t take a marketing 101 course in college. This person is of course – John the Baptist.

Let’s take a look at our gospel from this past Sunday. Would someone please read Matthew 3: 1-12.

Now, from a marketing standpoint, God got it all wrong. All so very wrong. I took communications and marketing classes at Newberry and while I wouldn’t say I’m an ‘expert’ (far from it), I do at least know the ‘basics.’

First – you make your message easily discoverable. Today that’s pretty easy. You’ve got blanket ad campaigns that target radio, print (though not as much as before), TV, web, and social media realms. If you want someone to really hear your pitch – you go to where they are – in all the places they are.

God kind of messed that up. When we are introduced to John the Baptist we find out that he’s ‘outside’ where most people are. People have to go to him to hear his words. Sure, others I’m certain came because of word-of-mouth, but I hazard a guess that they came when their friends said, “Hey – come listen to this dude… he’s kind of nutty.”

That leads right into that second ‘no-no.’ The actual look of your messenger. If you want people to listen or at least be initially intrigued, you present them with an attractive and clean medium to present your product through. You get the best-looking men and women you can find to hawk your product. Straight teeth, good hair, fit body, nice clothes, broad smile. I’m sure God could’ve found someone that didn’t have disheveled hair, presumably ill-fitting and ‘tacky’ clothing, and whose diet consisted of bugs and wild honey.

This is the guy that is shouting your message?

Oh, I almost forgot – the way you present your views is another thing. We read that the Baptist here is shouting his – God’s – message. Sure, the message might be good – but, who here has ever been that convicted by a street preacher? Seriously? Yelling at me usually isn’t going to get me to actually listen to you, it’s just going to make move that much quicker past you. Now, if you get a voice like Morgan Freeman’s? There’s a voice I can listen to all day. Perhaps even a Scarlett Johannsen? Yep, I might not care at all about what you’re trying to push on me, but if it’s the voice of Black Widow? You can guarantee that you’ve got my attention.

From a marketing perspective, there is so much that God got wrong in using John the Baptist. He proclaims his message from outside the place where his audience is located, he presents himself in a way that most people – then and now – would scoff and raise their nose at, and his delivery isn’t the most subtle.

We live in a world, and always have, where people are ‘tricked’ into a product or message. Their wares are packaged behind a slick presentation, through beautiful people, and offered in soothing, sexy, emotional or other shiny ways. All to make you feel better. To feel empowered. To move you.

But, you know what – most times the ad is remembered, but the product is lost. Have y’all seen those Matthew McConaughey ads? I still barely know what they are advertising, but I remember them because they are so odd and beautifully shot.

We have so many ads that bombard us every day – especially during this time of year. They get us to feel ‘less’ than of ourselves in order that we might buy into their services and products. Yet, most of those ads are completely forgotten within days and months, only to be ‘remembered’ over by the next flashy ad.

Yet, for as much as God may have gotten wrong about John the Baptist in the marketing department. One thing can’t be overlooked. It’s a message we still hear today.

And that message? Prepare. God’s coming. Repent. Turn towards God.

It’s a message that still speaks to us, especially during this season of Advent.

A message that comes from an odd individual and from a place outside the comfort of everyday life. That message is spoken through words of care and grace about a God who comes to be in relationship with the entire world. A God who cares so much that he came to be one of us to know what life was like and to lead us to new life through death and resurrection.

Hear the message of Advent. Share the message of Advent. Live out the message of Advent.

God is coming to be with us. God comes to us and we celebrate that during Advent. God’s avenues, mediums, and individuals surprise us relentlessly. They make us squirm and think. They stretch us to places we didn’t think possible.

Perhaps we don’t need a slick messenger, but a hearty message itself. Amen.

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