Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Sermon for 12/18/11--Fourth Sunday in Advent (LSB 1-year)

The Season of Light

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

At the time of John the Baptist, many were in the dark. Oh, they knew that God had promised to send Light to His people. They knew that the same God who had led His people in the desert with a pillar of fire by night had also promised to bring light to those walking in darkness. And with His promise was also His admonition, as spoken by the prophet Isaiah: “Come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.” The priests and Levites knew light was coming, but still they were in the dark. For one thing, they did not know when it was coming. But at the same time, they really did not understand what that Light was. And so, when it did come, they did not see it.

One of the tragic things about people walking in darkness is that many of them do not even realize their condition. It is like dressing yourself in the dark. Can you imagine what you would look like when you had no idea what clothes you were putting on? And yet, that is how we must look to God; people whose spiritual appearance reveals the darkness of our sin. Most people do not even realize this spiritually embarrassing situation. They are perfectly content to live in sin and ignorance, unaware of the will of God. They feel no need for light because they don’t know they’re in darkness.

Even you who know the Lord slip into this realm of darkness. You shun the light of God, and live for yourselves rather than for Him. You neglect Him in every day things, where too often the darkness of the world begins to overwhelm your faint reflections of the Light. You stand more like flickering candles about to be extinguished than as beacons guiding others to the Light of Christ. It is no wonder that John the Baptist, who came to bear witness to the true Light, also came with a message of repentance. The light of Christ exposes your deeds of darkness.

Of course, knowing that you need the light does not guarantee that you can find the switch that turns it on. Here is where the priests and Levites had their problem. They were looking for the Light, but could not find it. “Who are you,” they asked John? “Are you the Christ?" John humbly gave His answer: "No." He was not any of those; but he added, “I baptize with water, but there stands One among you whom you do not know.” The same ones who came looking for light missed it. And they would continue to miss it. Jesus, who gave sight to the blind, who said so clearly, “I am the Light of the world,” who would be put to death in a world and on a day noted for supernatural darkness; this Jesus was condemned by these men who were looking for the Light! How easy it is to miss the true Light by pursuing any number of false but flashy lights: the bright lights of materialism and the brilliant light of pride. And yet, how many today either miss or misunderstand the Light of God; and as a result, they miss the whole purpose of this season of light. Thank God that man’s light is completely overshadowed by the true Light of the world.

Thank God for John and the witness he gave to that Light who gives light to all men; for you cannot find it on your own. You need someone to show you the light, to turn it on for you. John’s witness comes to you once again in this Advent season. John points you directly to who that Light is: God’s true and only Son, who came to die bearing your sins, who came to redeem you from the power of darkness, who suffered the darkest depths of hell in your place, and who rose in glory to give His light and life to all the world.

When you come confessing your sin, when you admit that you are walking in darkness, then suddenly and wondrously the light comes on, and you see your Savior, Christ the Lord. You behold a baby in a manger, but you understand that this crib of Christmas will find its meaning fulfilled only in the cross of Calvary. This child has come to die for you, so that you need not suffer the darkness of death. You are led out of darkness into His marvelous light.

When the light of Christ is turned on, the world changes. You see your entire life in a new way. No longer do you need to live in a world of fear, for your sins have been forgiven and the power of Satan has been crushed. No longer do you need to grope about in the darkness, fumbling around in a futile search to find purpose amidst the confusion of life. For you have seen the true light. God has shown you the Truth. With eyes firmly fixed on Jesus, you can walk confidently in faith through your life on this earth to the everlasting light of heaven.

This is the season of light. You know the One true Light is coming; and you shall see Him in the full revelation of the glory of that Baby, a Savior who is Christ the Lord, whom we shall meet in the light of heaven, where we will live in His light forever. “Come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!” In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.

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