Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Sunday, December 9, 2012
Preparing the Way - December 9, 2012 - Second Sunday in Advent - Text: Luke 3:1-14 [15-20]
Are you ready? Are you ready for Christmas? Just to ask that questions may bring too many thoughts to your mind. From just a worldly point of view that question asks if we have our Christmas decorations up, if we have our party plans made, if we have our presents purchased and wrapped. However, from our Christian point of view that question asks if we have our hearts and minds prepared for celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Are we ready? The purpose of the season of Advent is that this is the time we use to get ourselves ready.
Our text for this morning is the beginning of the work and mission of John the Baptist. His work was to get the world ready for Jesus’ first coming, that is for Jesus’ time of ministry and work on earth. The importance of verses one and two of our text are that they serve to establish the historic fact of Jesus’ life. Make sure you hear this, the importance of verses one and two of our text are that they serve to establish the historic fact of Jesus’ life. The words of our Bible, Holy Scripture are not simply stories disconnected with the so called “real” world. The words of our Bible are God’s Word and are words connected to all of life, and most importantly they are words connected to our eternal life. We do not worship a god who is a myth, a legend, or a tale, we worship a living God who intervened in our history and is a part of our lives. Luke was a doctor and a historian. Time and again we see how he is meticulous in making sure that he gets the facts straight. Indeed, while all the books of human origin, all our so called “books of learning,” may be good books for learning, all these books are tainted with the uncertainty of human nature. Our Bible is God’s Word, a word which is completely faithful and true, a word which has the power to do what it says.
Luke puts Jesus in time and history. Let me reiterate, Jesus is not a make believe person. He is not a god like the Greek gods. He is a real historic person. He is a person who was born in time. He was born in a stable in Bethlehem and His first bed was a manger.
Luke is meticulous in getting the facts and the details right. It is important that we get these things right. What Luke writes is not a myth, not a tale, not a saga, not a legend, not a story. What Luke writes are the facts. And the facts are these: “1In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, 2during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness.” (Luke 3:1-2).
According to Luke, John’s purpose was to preach a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. John was to show the people that they were sinners. How else would the people know of their need to repent of their sins unless their sins are pointed out to them? Likewise, how else would we know of our need to repent unless our sins were pointed out to us? And if we do not know we are sinners, then we would not repent and we would still be in our sins. And if we are still in our sins then we have no forgiveness and no hope of eternal life in heaven, only eternal spiritual death and hell. Thus we see the importance of our own need to be reminded of the Ten Commandments and how we daily break them, how we daily sin much and are in need of forgiveness, so that we might repent and confess our sins and be given God’s gracious gift of forgiveness and with forgiveness, life and salvation.
John came to preach a baptism of repentance and to prepare the way for Jesus. Remember, God’s promise to send a Savior was made some 4500 years earlier. By now, too many people had forgotten that promise and too many others, namely the Pharisees and teachers of the Law had changed the promises to be promises of sending a social, political savior. The people were in need of being prepared for the coming of their spiritual Savior lest they remain unprepared and miss Him. Likewise, we continue to need to prepare ourselves for our celebration of our Savior’s birth as well as for His second coming. To not be prepared would mean to miss Him and to miss Him would ultimately mean eternal spiritual death.
John came to preach a baptism of repentance, to prepare the way for Jesus and to make sure that all people were ready for the Savior. The people had not seen nor heard a prophet in some 500 years. This was the first prophet in so long that he gained their attention. They came out to hear him and to believe him and to be made ready for the coming of the Savior, the Messiah, the one promised by God to save the world. Likewise, we continue to see our need to be ready. To not be ready means eternal spiritual death. To be ready means to eagerly anticipate, to expectantly wait, to anxiously look forward to Jesus’ return, when He will take us from this earth to be with Himself in heaven for eternity.
How did John get the people ready. He got them ready by the message he proclaimed. His message was a fulfillment of Holy Scripture of what was promised. Luke states, “As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet:” (Luke 3:4a). John did not come on his own accord. He did not come proclaiming his own message. He came proclaiming the message God gave him to proclaim.
And the message God gave John to proclaim was a call to arms, a call to be ready. His message was a message from Holy Scripture that Holy Scripture was about to be fulfilled. The one promised to save all mankind was about to be seen. And all mankind would see God’s salvation.
John’s message was that the beginning of the end was in sight. Jesus’ coming ushered in the beginning of the end of the world, at least the end of this world. Jesus’ coming brought salvation to the world, to those who believe on His name, so that they might have life in the world to come, eternal life with Him in heaven.
What does this have to do with us? Again we might ask the question, “Are we ready?” And we might ask, “How do we get ready?” I pray that as we have been looking at this text and looking at the getting ready of the children of Israel for Jesus’ first coming, that we might see how our being ready is so important, even how our lives depend on it. For to not be ready means losing everything, even our lives. To not be ready means eternal spiritual death and hell.
So as we see, Advent really has a duel purpose. The first purpose of Advent is to get us ready to celebrate the first Christmas and Jesus’ birth in a stable in Bethlehem. We get ready for this celebration by preparing our hearts and minds to once again hear the Christmas message, the Word of God which reminds us that God’s promises have been fulfilled. We get ourselves ready by clearing away the secular distractions that take away from a clear Gospel message. We take the time to read and reread the Christmas story. And I can think of no better way than to read Luke’s account of the events which took place so long ago.
The second purpose of Advent is to get us ready for Jesus second coming. Whether we believe it or not, whether we believe it will happen during our own life time or not, Jesus will come again, probably when we least expect it. Thus, it is so important that we get ready and work to stay ready for His second coming. And we get ourselves ready by making regular and diligent use of the means He has given us to get ourselves ready, the means of grace. We get ourselves ready by reading our Bible. We get ourselves ready by remembering our Baptism, by remembering that water and God’s name, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have been put on us. We get ourselves ready by regularly, every Sunday, attending Divine Service and Bible class. We get ourselves ready by confessing our sins and by hearing the most beautiful words in the world, “Your sins are forgiven,” because we know that when we hear those words we have what they say, forgiveness of sins and with forgiveness is life and salvation. We get ourselves ready by coming to the Lord’s table to partake of His body and blood and hearing the words, “given and shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins,” and by this we participate in His death and resurrection. His perfect life becomes our perfect life. His perfect death becomes our perfect death. His resurrection becomes our resurrection. And His eternal life becomes our eternal life. It is through these very means that the Lord works in us to get us ready and to keep us ready.
Advent is a time to get ready for Jesus’ coming. Advent is a time in which we look back and see that the past is reflected in the present and in the future. Scripture has been fulfilled and Christ was born. Scripture will be fulfilled and Christ will return.
The question we ask ourselves again is, “Are we ready?” And we answer that question with a resounding “Yes, with the help of God.” And He does get us ready and we are ready.
The month of December is a hectic, event filled month. There are so many parties to attend. There are so many things to do, presents to buy, presents to wrap, decorations to put up, a tree to decorate, so many things are vying for our attention. And now, here we have the pastor trying to get our attention as well. Let me put it into perspective for you. While we are on this earth we may celebrate 80 or more Christmases. We may celebrate 18 or more with our children and fewer with them as little children. The fact of the matter is that we will spend a life of eternity either in eternal sorrow or eternal joy depending on whether or not we are prepared. If we do not get things just right for our earthly Christmas celebration, that is okay, it is just one Christmas and you will possibly have next Christmas to try again. If we do not get things right for getting ready for our eternal life, that is not okay. That could mean eternal spiritual death. Thus, my prayer for each one of you continues to be that the Lord who has already begun His good work in you, would work through His Word to touch your heart to give you an urgency about your faith and your faith life, so that you will be ready, so that when our last hour comes we will all together stand before the Lord’s throne and say, to Him be the glory. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.