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Advent 4 – John 1:19-28

by pastorjuhl ~ December 16th, 2010

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

Anticipation can be the pits. Ask any child right now if he is ready for Christmas and more than likely you’ll see their body twitch and shake. A child knows what’s coming; nevertheless, he must mark time and wait for the big day. That’s exactly where the Christian Church is today. She is on the verge of a big moment, but that big moment is not quite here.

The Scripture readings burst with pregnant anticipation. The Lord your God will raise you for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from Your brethren. Him you shall hear….I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him. Rejoice in the Lord always. The Lord is at hand. I am not the Christ. It is He who, coming after me, is preferred before me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose.

You know Who He is. You know how He is born according to the flesh. You know what He does for you. Yet you have to wait to welcome Him. The world rushes His welcome, leaving you very little time for anticipation. They can’t wait. You can, for the Christian Church has all the time in the world to wait for the coming of the Christ Child. However, you adopt the way of the world and want to rush things on a bit. You are like Abraham, who thought God would tarry concerning His promise of a son from Sarah. Abraham took matters into his own hands, lay with Hagar, and produced his own offspring not of the promise.

Abraham’s lack of anticipation brought trouble into his house. A child of the Law and a child of the Promise lived under one roof. One was cast out so the other could remain. God provided for the child of the Law and his mother, but they had to go in order that the Promise might be made sure to all the Seed of Abraham, those by blood and those by faith.

Anticipation is good. Embrace it, for it builds up into a wellspring of great joy once the time of waiting is over. Repent of wanting to turn the hands of time forward for premature joy. Live in the moment, for the Savior of the nations is near. Rejoice that His name is not John, though John has every chance to claim to be the Coming One.

John’s Gospel says that John the Baptist made a confession in denying he was the Christ. He had the opportunity to rush things on a little bit. John could remove one little word from his confession I am not the Christ and seize the moment. All eyes were on him as he preached repentance and baptized beyond the Jordan. Maybe, just maybe, this is the guy. John wouldn’t take the bait. No, I am not the Christ. However, there stands One among you whom you do not know.

The anticipation of Advent is not so much on John as it is on the shadowy figure that John talks about in today’s Gospel and points out twice in the same chapter of Saint John’s Gospel. John the Baptist is a spectacle, but he’s the opening act. Actually, he’s the closing act because he is the last and greatest of the prophets. Soon John will step aside and Jesus Christ, Son of the Most High God, will take center stage. Jesus Christ is the One Whom Moses prophecies when he says, He shall speak to [His people] all that I command Him. And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My name, I will require it of him.

Listen to John the Baptist’s words, because they are words of anticipation for the Savior. Listen especially to the Savior’s Words, for they are Spirit and Truth proceeding from our heavenly Father. The Pharisees are given the excellent opportunity to listen to Jesus’ Words, for He is the One they await. We hear in the Gospels that most of the Pharisees will not listen to the Words Jesus speaks. They hear, but do not listen. Instead, they try to trap Him in His talk and attempt to do away with Him. They succeed. Their success is their undoing. Their success is our redemption.

John the Baptist cannot take away the sins of the world. Only Messiah can do it. This is why John’s message of repentance is imperative this time of year. It’s time to sweep yourself clean in order to welcome Jesus Christ according to the flesh. It’s time to follow the shepherds to Bethlehem to see this thing that has happened. It’s time to listen to this Child conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary live the perfect life you and I cannot live in order to suffer and die for the sins of the world. What Child is this? This is Christ, the Son of God, the Savior long foretold, and the One promised to Adam and Eve, the Word of the Father that created the heavens and the earth.

No wonder today’s Divine Service is full of anticipation, joy, and hope that comes from above to lift the burden of sin that weighs us down by His grace and mercy. Jesus Christ is about to pitch His tent, His tabernacle, among us and dwell according to the flesh. In this tabernacle, this house of God on the corner of Second and Pine, He dwells among us in the Means of Grace until He returns to fold up this tent and take His beloved Bride to the Tabernacle not made with hands in the heavenly mansions. The Advent prayer commonly mistaken for the Common Table Prayer remains on the lips of the Church for another few days: Come, Lord Jesus, be our Guest, and let these gifts to us be blessed. Do not delay, O my God! Shower, O heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain down righteousness.

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

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