dawn_5330cnAdvent 3, 2017
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
December 17, 2017
Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24, John 1:6-8, 19-28

Sermons online:
Text:                            pastorjud.org
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com
itunes:                         bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:    bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship

It is 19 year old Marine private Harlan Pierce’s turn for night guard duty.  While his brothers in arms are asleep in the makeshift barracks Harlan stands awake leaning against the cold sandbags that surrounded the forward operating base.  It is a dark, moonless night and Harlan feels very much alone in that hostile area with enemy combatants out there; hidden in the darkness.

He stares out into the murky darkness but cannot see much of anything.  There is a light wind and every rustle, every sound, resonates in Harlan’s ears and reverberates throughout his body as he grips his M4 Carbine and looks through the scope trying to pick up any intruders in the perimeter.  There is a sound of crunching brush close by and Harlan’s swings the M4 over and is ready to fire when he sees a little rabbit scurry off in the brush.  The darkness has made him jumpy and nervous; every sound, every shadow makes his hair stand on end.  He knows there are men out there in the darkness who want to kill him, but he doesn’t know where or when.  Harlan desperately longs for the sun to come up over the eastern hills so he can see again and he won’t be alone.  Harlan is a good marine.  Harlan stays at his post and prays for the light.

Psalm 130:6 (ESV) 6 my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning.[1]

For those living in Israel at the time of the birth of John the Baptist and Jesus it is a dark world.  The Romans have had control for decades and Herod the Great has been on the throne since 37 BC and the older he gets, the more violent and crazy and unpredictable he becomes.  He is supposed to be the King of the Jews, but he is just a puppet for the Romans.

The temple leaders; the scribes and the Pharisees, are supposed to be the spiritual leaders of the people, but instead they are just pawns for Herod.  They set up systems to support the Roman occupiers, keep the people in line, and pad their own pockets.  They care nothing for worshiping the true God, but instead serve Caesar.  When word comes that the Messiah was born in Bethlehem none of the temple leaders go to seek the new king.

It is a time of darkness, hopeless darkness, crushing darkness, suffocating darkness.

Psalm 130:6 (ESV) 6 my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning.[2]

It is a gloomy world today with darkness pushing in on you from all around.  There is darkness in your own soul as you sin in thought, word and deed.  There is darkness in your soul passed down to you from your first parents; Adam and Eve, and no matter how calm and good you can seem on the outside, inside you are a bubbling cauldron of evil thoughts and desires.  Who among you would want people to see your inner thoughts through a window to your soul?  The darkness of your soul is deep.

The darkness of the world pushes in on you.  There is evil and violence and disease and disaster all pushing in constantly.  There is terrorism and war and threats of war.  There is a constant push to encourage depravity and perversion.  There is physical abuse, verbal abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse.  There is bullying and harassment.  The darkness of the world can be suffocating.

The devil, the world and your own sinful nature want to make the darkness seem so attractive that you invite the darkness into your life; you welcome the darkness into your soul; you pursue the darkness, and let the darkness envelope you and suffocate any light in you.  Resist the darkness.  Stay at your post.

The Prince of Darkness continues to pursue you and drag you back into the deep darkness of his lies and accusations.  Those are his tools to bring you into the darkness; lies and accusations.  The devil lies to you to get you to sin, “It’s no big deal.  No one will find out. Who is it hurting?  Everyone is doing it.  You deserve it.”  After the Devil gets you to sin he then switches to accusations.  “What have you done?  You are a dirty, rotten sinner.  Your sin is so great!  God cannot love you.  Jesus can never forgive you.”

And there is just enough truth in the Prince of Darkness’s accusations that they ring true.  It is true, I am a sinner.  The Devil knows your weaknesses and preys on them.  And the darkness closes in on you.

The devil, the world and your own sinful nature all want you to walk away from your post and embrace the darkness.  The devil, the world and your own sinful nature want to make the darkness seem so attractive that you invite the darkness into your life; you welcome the darkness into your soul; you pursue the darkness, and let the darkness envelope you and suffocate any light in you.  Resist the darkness.  Stay at your post.  Pray for the light.

Psalm 130:6 (ESV) 6 my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning.[3]

It is a time of darkness, deep darkness, hopeless darkness, crushing darkness, suffocating darkness.  You are on guard against the darkness.  The darkness can make you as nervous and jumpy as a marine on guard duty in hostile territory.  You stare into the darkness and the unknown and you wait; you wait for the light.  The darkness makes you desperately long for the sun to come up over the eastern hills so you can see again and you won’t be alone.  The darkness is powerful, but you don’t leave your post and go into the darkness.  You stand your ground and you pray for the light.

Matthew 4:16 (ESV) 16 the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.” [4]

John 1:1-5 (ESV) 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.[5]

Jesus is the Word. Jesus is the light.  In Jesus the light has dawned and spreads.  Jesus is the light and brings joy to the world.  Jesus brings light; Jesus brings joy.  This third Sunday of Advent is the Sunday of joy because we know what has happened and what is going to happen.

The King shall come when morning dawns
And light triumphant breaks,
When beauty gilds the eastern hills
And life to joy awakes.

“From heav’n above to earth I come
To bear good news to ev’ry home;
Glad tidings of great joy I bring,
Whereof I now will say and sing:

Joy to the world, the Lord is come.

Let earth receive her king!

You live in an Advent world waiting for Jesus to return, but you live in a Christmas world that knows Jesus has already come.  The Light of Christ has come into the darkness.  You live in the light with fellow followers of the light.  You live in the joy of Christ’s salvation.  You live in the light and joy of Christ and you are not alone.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (ESV) 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.[6]

The light of Christ has dawned.  You can see the truth even as the darkness tries to push in on you.  You are not alone.  When the devil accuses you of being a sinner now you have something to say.  You can tell the devil, “It is true.  I am a sinner.  But Jesus paid for my sin.  I am a baptized child of God living in the light and joy of Christ.”

John the Baptist is sent as a witness to the light.  John points people to Jesus, the light of the world.  John is not the light.  John bears witness to the light.  Still today we have witnesses who point people in the darkness to the light and joy of Jesus.  The light has dawned in the darkness.  Jesus is come to save you from your sins.

Psalm 130:6 (ESV) 6 my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning.[7]

You live now in the light of Christ even amidst the darkness of this world.  You resist the darkness.  You point others toward the true light in Jesus.  You stay at your post and pray for the light and wait for the light to dawn again when Jesus returns in glory on the last day to drive out the darkness forever.

Amen.

[1]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[2]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[3]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[4]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[5]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[6]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[7]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

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