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Advent 2 2020
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
December 5, 6, 2020
Isaiah 40:1-11, 2 Peter 3:8-14, Mark 1:1-8

Sermons online: 
Text and Audio:         immanuelhamiltonchurch.com   click “sermons”
Text:                            pastorjud.org   
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com 
itunes:                         bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:    bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship

            The church is decorated.  Here are the trees, and the lights, and the garland and stars.  There is a familiar comfort to it all.  It is calming.  It brings a peaceful feeling.  On dark December evenings it is nice to drive around and see houses brightly illuminated with colorful twinkling lights.  Peace on earth, good will to men.  Into this scene of calm bursts John the Baptist on the second Sunday of Advent dressed in a garment of hair with a leather belt around his waist like the prophet Elijah, and eating food he foraged in the desert.  John is not some slick, fancy pants preacher living in luxury, sipping wine and having subtle intellectual conversations about the meaning of life.  This is John the Baptist, the new Elijah promised by the prophets Malachi and Isaiah blasting in full strength to fulfill Old Testament prophecies.  Mark 1:2-3 (ESV) 2 As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, “Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way, 3 the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,’ ”[1]  John gives it to you straight.  John calls people to repentance because the reign of heaven is near.  People hear this message and respond.  Crowds come from Judea and Jerusalem to be baptized by John in the wilderness.

            John is the voice calling in the wilderness.  Now the wilderness is not a happy, comfortable place.  It is desolate and dangerous.  Isolated and abandoned.  John is preaching the Good News of the coming of King Jesus in difficult circumstances in a dangerous location.  Lately it can certainly feel like we are in the wilderness in these unending days of pandemic.  We pray for this to end, but the virus is spiking and we have more and more people we know infected and quarantining; sick and dying.  The virus continues to ravage the world and makes everything feel out of sorts.  The voice crying in the wilderness still speaks to us today.  John is the voice in the wilderness bringing the Good News of Jesus’ arrival.  The one promised from of old has come.  John’s cry in the wilderness still resonates today.  It is still Good News in the wilderness that Jesus has come in the flesh to be God with us, Immanuel.  It is still Good News that God in flesh is born in Bethlehem and grows to die on the cross for your sins and rise from the dead.  It is still Good News in the wilderness that you look forward to Jesus coming again on the Last Day to raise the dead and bring all believers in Jesus into the Heavenly City of New Jerusalem.  It is still Good News in the wilderness that Jesus comes to you today in His Word, and in His Body and Blood in Holy Communion.  In the wilderness of this world and in the wilderness of the pandemic, you still need to hear the call to repent and follow Jesus. 

            John breaks the calm on this second Sunday of Advent calling you to repent.  Now this can sound like John is trying to make you feel guilty for a bit, but repentance is not something Jesus needs from you, repentance is something you need in order to know where you stand. 

            John is a good preacher because while he is kind of a rock star of his time with people coming out to him from all over, John does not teach about John.  John does not promote John.  John does not preach sermons about how cool John is.  John knows he is a sinner who needs Jesus and so John minimizes John, and preaches about Jesus.  Mark 1:7 (ESV) 7 And he preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.[2]  John preaches about Jesus.  A wise seminary professor once said that any preacher worth his salt sends his people home talking about Jesus, not talking about the pastor.

            John breaks the calm on this second Sunday of Advent calling you to repent.  Now this can sound like John is trying to make you feel guilty for a bit, but repentance is not something Jesus needs from you, repentance is something you need in order to know where you stand.  To know you are a sinner who needs forgiveness.  To know you are a sinner who needs Jesus.  To know you are not God.  To know that you should fear, love and trust in God alone.  Martin Luther in his book the “Bondage of the Will” writes, “…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.[3]

            Repentance despairs of yourself and looks to God for salvation.  Repentance admits you cannot save yourself; you need Jesus. Repentance takes the kings crown off your own head and returns it to Jesus.  Repentance is a call to remove those things from your life that keep you from welcoming the King to reign over you.

            John the Baptist is the voice of one crying in the wilderness to prepare the way for Jesus’ arrival.  Jesus arrives to take center stage, but he ministers in a surprisingly humble way with healing and forgiveness.  Jesus welcomes sinners and eats with them.  He cares for the weak and lowly.  Mark 10:45 (ESV)45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”[4] 

            Today in the wilderness of this world; in the isolation and desolation of the unending pandemic, take heart.  Jesus has come as the sacrifice for your sins.  Jesus comes to you today in His Word, and in His Body and Blood in Holy Communion.  Jesus will come on the Last Day to raise you from the dead to live with him forever.  This is the great Good News that John the Baptist brings to you today.  It is the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

            Amen. 


[1]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[2]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[3]Luther, M. (1999, c1972). Vol. 33: Luther’s works, vol. 33 : Career of the Reformer III (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther’s Works (33:62). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

[4]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

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