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Advent 3 – Matthew 11:2-10

by pastorjuhl ~ December 10th, 2009

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord” is not necessarily thrilling. John the Baptizer is the one prophesied to clear the path for the preaching of Jesus Christ. Path clearing takes effort. Branches must be cut. Twigs must be pushed out of the way. Ground must be made level.

John’s preaching does just that, but at a cost. A voice of repentance doesn’t bring carnal security. King Herod had enough of John’s preaching. Herod threw John into prison where he soon would be beheaded. While in prison, John sends some of his disciples to Jesus with a question: Are you the Coming One, or do we look for another? The answer is obvious when you read Holy Scripture. Jesus heals ailments, especially the fatal ailment of sin, with His forgiving Word.

John, on the other hand, is a spectacle. He dressed in clothes of camel’s hair…with a leather belt around his waist. He eats locusts and wild honey. He pours water over people’s heads, washing them in water of repentance toward the forgiveness of sins. If John were walking the earth today, he would probably be considered by some an entertainer, by others a lunatic, and by many a zealous religious type who should be in jail rather than in the wilderness.

You can lock up the preacher of repentance, but you can’t lock up his message. Saint Paul tells the church in Corinth, judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. John’s preaching shines the Light of Truth directly into your life. His preaching exposes the dark, thick, muddy puddle of sin that covers your heart and soul. Preparing for Christmas is supposed to be a happy time. Words about sin and death should be the last thing on your mind.

Words about sin and death should be on your mind. There would be no need for John the Baptizer’s message were it not for your sin. You need to take the time and listen carefully to what John has to say. You need to look past his clothes, his body odor, and his diet, and listen to what Isaiah says about the forerunner of Christ. Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill brought low; the crooked places shall be made straight and the rough places smooth; the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

What did you go out into the wilderness to see? If you go out into the wilderness for the entertainment value, you return home disappointed. Nothing is entertaining about having your sins put before your face. If you go out into the wilderness to see a spectacle while not paying attention to what is being said, you return home deaf to God’s Word. You did not have ears to hear John’s message, or rather, God’s message of repentance toward the forgiveness of sins.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. Wherever light shines, darkness cannot stand to be in the same place. John’s preaching casts out darkness so the Light of the world can make His home there. Lost in all the tinsel and toys of Christmas is why there is a Christmas. The word “Christmas” is a compound word, combining “Christ” and “Mass”. Not the Roman Catholic Mass, the true meaning of the word “Mass”. Christmas means “Christ Service” Christ comes to us in the flesh to serve us with His holiness, His perfection, His life, and His forgiveness. It’s a shame when Christian congregations do not celebrate Christmas Day with Divine Service. Jesus is hard at work every Sunday of the year serving forgiveness and life. Why would He not be busy serving you on the day of His birth according to the flesh?

God sends John before Jesus to prepare you for God’s service among His people. His first service is when Jesus actively obeys His Father’s will, living the perfect life in our place. Where Adam failed to hearken to God, Jesus does not fail. Even though Christ is perfect in everything He thinks, says, and does, His own people place a crown of thorns upon His head and hand Him over to die a foreign criminal’s death. Roman citizens were never crucified. Jesus neither was a Roman citizen, nor was He an earthly king out to steal someone’s throne. Just as He laid His glory by the wayside when He was born of the Virgin Mary, so He lays His glory by the wayside when He sheds His blood for you on the cross. He puts on His glory when He rises from the dead and ascends into heaven, leaving twelve men behind to preach His Word and forgive sins.

Preaching and forgiveness are the means of His advent among us now. Isaiah prophesies the grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever. Winter is an appropriate season to hear these words once again. Grass withers under snow. Flowers fade from sight when winter’s chill descends. Though the beauty of warm weather disappears for a time, God’s Word does not disappear. Even when nature goes dormant, the proclamation of Christ’s triumph over Satan grows and thrives.

The ultimate triumph over Satan is yet to come. Jesus will return to raise the dead by the sound of His voice. Those judged worthy of everlasting life will be caught up in the air with Him and ascend into heaven. Those condemned by their unbelief will be caught up in torment forever. They had their opportunity to hear John’s proclamation. They had their opportunity to believe in the Lord Jesus and be saved from the coming wrath. That opportunity will soon be over.

Our Father in heaven has arranged for you to miss eternal torment. The Word of Christ dwells in you richly through preaching, baptism, absolution, and the Supper. These are the mysteries Saint Paul refers to in today’s Epistle. The world considers them a spectacle. The Christian considers them the way God delivers His forgiveness and life. Eating, drinking, and listening to His Word prepare the way for God to dwell among us now and always, even to the very end of the age.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

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