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Prepare the Way of the Lord December 9, 2012

Posted by sandhandrews in Sermons.
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Luke 3:1-14

 Advent 2

December 8-9, 2012

Focus: God sends His only Son for us (twice!).

Function: That the hearers prepare for Christ’s return.

Structure: Here is a prevailing view…but here is the claim of the gospel.

 

Prepare the Way of the Lord

            Prepare, prepare, prepare.  We have to be prepared.  What’s going on in the news right now that is prompting us to need to be prepared?  What’s the concern three weeks from now?  We have to prepare for the fiscal cliff.  If you watch any of those news channels and especially the shows on the economy, they’re probably already telling you what to do with your money.  How do you handle your investments?  What are you going to do about the increase in taxes?  You name it, they’re saying we must prepare!  At least the fiscal cliff is more likely to happen than the Mayan apocalypse two weeks from now, right?

Much of our lives deal with preparation.  How do we prepare our children for school?  How do we prepare them for the real world?  In what ways can I prepare myself for marriage, retirement, or even death?  And isn’t success in our culture often defined by the how well prepared we are?  The one who has everything laid out for their future, aren’t they the ones who always succeed?

Last weekend Pastor Mitteis introduced us to Advent.  He even admitted how many Advents he has had the pleasure of celebrating.  As we look up here to the front of the church today, we see a banner.  A banner that is helping us to prepare for Advent.  And with this being the second week of Advent, we move on to the second candle; we prepare.

But what is it exactly that we’re preparing for?  Pastor talked about that, too.  The word “advent” means “coming.”  And specifically, when we celebrate Advent at church, we are celebrating the coming of Jesus Christ.  We celebrate that nearly 2,000 years ago, God sent His Son Jesus Christ into the world.  We celebrate that Christ took on flesh; He became a man; He became a part of His creation.  We celebrate that first Christmas morning not just because a baby was born, but because that baby would be our Savior.  That Christ would die for us, redeeming us and this world from the clutches of sin, death, and the devil.

So this Advent season, we prepare for Christmas.  From family celebrations, gift giving, and decorating the home, to choirs, Christmas caroling, and going to church to celebrate, you’re probably good at preparing for Christmas.  Despite the fact that Hannah is still bugging me about not having the tree decorated, I’d like to think I’m pretty well prepared for my 25th Christmas.  And quite honestly, I feel pretty prepared for my 26th, 27th and God willing, even my 70th Christmas.  We’re pretty good at preparing.

In our text, as John comes to prepare the way for Lord, he gets a brood of vipers!  He gets to deal with the Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes and other teachers of the law who think they know how God operates.  Notice how he cuts them off: “And do not begin 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.”

It’s a covenant mindset.  The brood of vipers think they know everything.  “I am a son of Abraham, therefore God is my God, and I don’t have to worry about it.  I keep the laws, I’m golden.  The rest of you need to follow after us.  You need to keep these 613 laws.”  That’s not how God operated then, or at any point in history.  They were vipers, serpents, leading God’s people astray, to eat of the forbidden fruit.

But just because we aren’t Pharisees doesn’t mean that John the Baptist isn’t still speaking to us through God’s Spirit and His Word.  When we celebrate Advent together, we’re not only celebrating Christ’s coming as a babe in Bethlehem.  But we are also celebrating His promise when He said that “the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds,” (Matthew 16:27).  We celebrate the fact that Jesus is coming back for His people.

Are you prepared for Jesus’ return, for His second coming?  Are you prepared for Judgment Day?  Most of us would probably say yes, knowing that we are children of God in our baptisms, forgiven of our sins in confession and absolution and the Lord’s Supper.  We are indeed saved by the very blood of Christ.  And, as good Lutherans know, we don’t do anything to earn it.

But what are you doing to prepare?  Are you going to church, praying and reading your Bible?  If you are, that’s great, those are terrific things.  But if that’s all you’re doing, you’re not being a good Christian, you’re just being a good American.  See, we live in a culture that is all about being an individual.  We live in a society that triumphs independence and freedom.  In our schools our children are taught that there is no one right truth.  Whatever seems true for you is good for you, and what’s true for me is true for me.  We live in a world where we only look after #1.

If we’re not careful, it even penetrates here.  You can see it in church.  We are prone to drawing out the individual even in worship.  In the absolution, “I forgive you all your sins.”  In the distribution, “the body of Christ, given for you.”  And “the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ strengthen and preserve you in body and soul to life everlasting. Depart in peace.”  And in the benediction, “the Lord bless you and keep you.  The Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you.  The Lord look upon you with favor and give you peace.”  We’ll come back to these.  But first, we need to overcome our American, individualistic thinking.  It’s just not Christian.

Are you prepared for Christ’s return?  Jesus Christ promised He was coming back.  And He promised it was soon.  Let’s put a time on it.  If Christ were coming back at the stroke of midnight tonight, what would that mean?  Would anything in your life change?

Pause………….

            Would any of us really just go home, watch a little TV, and go to sleep?  I certainly hope not.  Instead, would you reconcile with a loved one that you haven’t spoken with in years?  If so, you’re holding on to a grudge and have let the sun go down on your anger.  Would it cause you to confess of certain things in your life that aren’t God-pleasing?  If so, you’re living a life of unrepented sin.

But there’s even more to this.  We aren’t just individuals, we’re a community.  Christians are a community. We are the body of Christ.  Together, we are one.  Look through His Word, and you’ll see how constantly God works through a community.  In our liturgy and worship, the Scriptures that we take the word “you” from aren’t singular.  They’re plural.  When Pastor says “you” in the Lord’s Supper, the word expresses “you all,” or for some, “y’all.”  We’re together, a community of brothers and sisters in Christ.

If Christ were coming back at the stroke of midnight tonight, how many of you would reach out to your friends and relatives who don’t believe in Christ?  Here in Madison County alone, that’s about 60% of people.  150,000 out 270,000 people, more than half, in this county would be going to hell.  5 billion people worldwide.  They are our parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, uncles, cousins, nieces, friends, classmates, coworkers, and random people all around us.  Are you prepared for Christ to come back?

I’m not.  There are things in my life that I would do differently, that I should do differently.  I’m not perfect, but that doesn’t change the fact that there are people counting on me and you that don’t even know it.  God has placed us in a community, in relationships, and He has placed those people in our lives.  Even if Christ doesn’t return tonight, that same sense of urgency still needs to be in us.  John the Baptist knew it.

“Bear fruits in keeping with repentance…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.”  Even now.  Even now those relationships exist all around us.  Even now, we see these people and we talk to them.  And even now we die and they die, time runs out.

You don’t need a degree in theology or special training in evangelism.  John’s preaching helped show the people this.  “And the crowds asked him, ‘What then shall we do?’”  What are the fruits born of repentance?  What does it look like to prepare the way of the Lord, to make His paths straight, to fill valleys, straighten the crooked, and level the rough places?

We call John’s answer “vocation.”  Vocation comes from the Latin word for a calling.  Vocations in your life are everything God has entrusted to you.  When you want to know what your vocations are, just name your relationships.  Being a spouse, a parent, a child.  Vocation.  Being a student, a boss, an employee.  Vocation.  Being a friend to someone who’s hurting, caring for dying parent, and even celebrating a birthday.  Vocation.  We see that in John’s answer.  He tells them to be good to others, giving away clothing or food to those in need.  And he takes two jobs, careers that were deemed unfit for a Jew, and he turns them into good.  Tax collectors, take only what you’re told.  Soldiers, don’t extort people or falsely accuse.  Just do your job.  That’s vocation.  And God works through us in those relationships.

We are God’s children.  He loves us, cares for us and forgives us.  He gave His Son to die for us.  He cherishes all of us and calls us His own people.  As God’s children, we are called to be His children in all of our relationships and in everything we do.  We are called to share His love and His Son with everyone we know.  Like John the Baptist, this is how we now prepare the way of the Lord.  And we do it so that “all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”

 

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