Advent 2 2019
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
December 8, 2019
Isaiah 11:1-10, Romans 15:4-13, Matthew 3:1-12

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Advent is a wonderful time of the year as we battle against the dark evenings with millions of twinkling lights on our trees and houses.  Not that I am a big part of the Christmas decorating at our house, but we have given up stringing outdoor lights and gone to the laser light projectors on the front tree and house.  It’s nice.  It’s pretty.It makes the darkness seem a little less dark.  Advent is our time of anticipating the celebration of Jesus coming as the baby in Bethlehem and looking forward to Jesus coming again on the last day as the returning King in Glory.  It is a busy time, but also a time for quiet nostalgia.

So you sit there quietly on the sofa with your cup of hot cocoa listening to Christmas music with all the lights out except for the Christmas tree, and suddenly there is a loud knock on the door.  Who is it?Is it another Amazon Prime box?  Is it a group of carolers from the local church?No, it is a wild haired, bearded man wearing rough, hairy clothes, munching on a grasshopper dipped in honey.  Here in the midst of the sentimental contemplations of Advent comes John the Baptist to interrupt the season with His message of preparation.  Matthew 3:2 (ESV) 2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”[1]

John is sent by God to be the voice of one crying in the wilderness, “Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.”John originally comes to prepare the way for King Jesus and His reign.  And that is what he is doing in our Gospel reading today; getting people ready for Jesus’ arrival by calling for them to repent and be baptized.

Many are convicted by John’s call to repent. They confess their sins and go down into the waters of the Jordan River to be baptized by John.

Others, the Pharisees and Sadducees, are coming for John’s baptism, but it seems they just to want to go through the motions of being baptized, but they are not repenting and confessing their sins.  John boldly confronts these religious leaders.  Matthew 3:7-10 (ESV) 7 … “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?8 Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.9 And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.10 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.[2]

It is not the act of baptism alone that will save you; it is not religious ancestry that will save you.  It is faith in God.  It is submission to the King.  It is living under the King’s authority and rule.  Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.  The reign of heaven is at hand.  It is coming quickly in Christ Jesus who is on His way down to the Jordan to be baptized by John along with all the people.  Jesus enters into the waters of baptism to connect Himself to His people and their sins.

Repentant faith produces fruits of faith.  Repentant faith in King Jesus changes you and yields the fruit of faith, Galatians 5:22-23 (ESV)  22 … love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,23 gentleness, self-control.[3]  Good works do not save you but humble trust in Jesus alone naturally shows forth good fruit.  Forsaking anything from yourself and trusting completely in the blood of Christ helps you walk in the will of God.

Martin Luther addresses this in his book, “Bondage of the Will.”  “God has assuredly promised his grace to the humble, that is, to those who lament and despair of themselves. But no man can be thoroughly humbled until he knows that his salvation is utterly beyond his own powers, devices, endeavors, will and works, and depends entirely on the choice, will and work of another, namely, of God alone.  For as long as he is persuaded that he himself can do even the least thing toward his salvation, he retains some self-confidence and does not altogether despair of himself, and therefore he is not humbled before God, but presumes that there is—or at least hopes or desires that there may be—some place, time and work for him, by which he may at length attain to salvation.  But when a man has no doubt that everything depends on the will of God, then he completely despairs of himself and chooses nothing for himself, but waits for God to work; then he has come close to grace, and can be saved.”  Martin Luther   LW 33:61

John the Baptist brought this message to the people of Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region around the Jordan and today he interrupts your Christmas preparations.  “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”

John’s message, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near,” is a gut punch to your sinful pride.  It is not at all about you; it is all about Jesus for you.Repentance is knowing that you are totally helpless.  Repentance is knowing that you need Jesus.  Repentance is knowing you are totally dependent on God for forgiveness.  Repentance is knowing that the darkness of sin has no place in someone living in the light of Christ.  Repentance is knowing that Jesus is going to return for judgment and you need His forgiveness.

Now we are in a different time frame than those John was talking to in our Gospel reading.  Those people did not yet know Jesus.  They knew about a coming Messiah, but it was still shrouded in mystery.  You do know Jesus.  You know that He is the Messiah.  You know that He is Immanuel, God with us.  You know He is God in flesh.  You know that He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. You know Jesus was sacrificed for you on the cross of Calvary and you know that He rose from the dead to show that He has fully paid for your sins.  You have much greater knowledge than the people being baptized by John in the Jordan, and yet His message still resonates today because we can still fall into the same errors.

There is a danger that you can get comfortable with your sin and not repent.  You can look to your baptism as God’s promise to you and then start to rationalize that since Jesus has forgiven my sin then my sin is not a big deal.  My issues with lust, with idolatry, with anger and fighting, with envy and drunkenness, these are just part of who I am.  I can’t help it.  It is how God made me.  We can begin to excuse our sin as human nature and that everyone is doing it.  I might have my problems, but I’m not as bad as that other person.  After all, my little sins are no big deal.  I do enough good things to make up for my sin.  I give enough to make up for my shortcomings.  I do enough.  I give enough.  It’s okay.And you can grow comfortable in your sin and learn to live with it.

John’s message, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near,” is a gut punch to your sinful pride.  It is not at all about you; it is all about Jesus for you.Repentance is knowing that you are totally helpless.  Repentance is knowing that you need Jesus.  Repentance is knowing you are totally dependent on God for forgiveness.  Repentance is knowing that the darkness of sin has no place in someone living in the light of Christ.  Repentance is knowing that Jesus is going to return for judgment and you need His forgiveness.

Everything depends on Jesus, nothing depends on you.  You are a sinner who needs Jesus.  I am a sinner who needs Jesus.  Thank God, Jesus is here today for you to forgive you your sins.

Jesus has chosen you in the waters of baptism to be marked for eternal life in the kingdom of heaven.  Jesus comes to be baptized by John and is connected with His people in the waters.  He is connected to you in the waters of baptism.  He comes to you in His Word.  He comes to you in His very Body and Blood in Holy Communion.

Here you gather together and get on your knees and plead guilty of all your sin.  Here you are strengthened to live a life bearing the fruit of repentance.  Here you delight in knowing Jesus has done it all for you and you belong to Him.

The crazy looking and very bold prophet, John the Baptist invades your Advent season today to bring you the truth about sin and forgiveness.  He prepares you for the true joy of Christmas; the joy of seeing God’s love incarnate, God’s love in flesh, lying in a manger, come to be the perfect sacrifice for the sin of the world.  The true joy of Christmas; God comes to be with us.  Immanuel.

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

 

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