Sunday, December 21, 2014

Sermon for 12/21/14: Advent IV



The Greater One

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

The people wanted to know about John the Baptist. In last week’s text, Jesus asked them, “What did you go out to see?” What did you expect? Did you expect to see someone immaculately dressed? Did you expect to see someone feasting like a king? In the same way, why are you here this morning? Did you come to this wilderness expecting to see Joel Osteen with his pressed suits and perfect hair and shiny teeth? It may surprise you to hear that people don’t come to Campbell Hill for the fancy restaurants, the boutique shopping, or the perfect spa treatment. They don’t come here because the goofy bald guy is so interesting. So why are you here?

Everybody wants to know what the big deal is about John the Baptist. The Pharisees come to find out about this enigma. But all John has for any of them is Jesus. John is a prophet. John is just a voice, preparing the way, telling you the Christ is coming. When they want to know why John is baptizing if he’s nothing special, John calls it a sign of the One to come. The One to come is among you, and He will appear shortly. He is the important one. He is the Lamb of God, coming to take away the sins of the world. John is just here to point Him out to you. The Pharisees wanted some spectacular religion and a hero for a Messiah and Savior. But here is this crazy, camel hair-wearing prophet. To their frustration, he will only point them to Jesus. Jesus is coming after John, even though He is before John as the eternal Son of God. John points to Jesus, and Jesus shows up the next day.

The same is true for your preacher. All the man in this pulpit has for you is Jesus, the very Lamb who takes away the sins of the world. Often you want to know why the cancer came back. You want to know how to fix your marriage. You want to know how to deal with your family member who won't stop stirring up trouble. You want to know why the world is going crazy and bad things are happening. Your pastor knows you want answers for all of it. Your pastor does not have access to the full counsel of God. But all I have for you is Jesus, who is far greater than I am. Like John, all I have for you is the signs I’ve been called to administer: Baptism, Absolution, the Word, and the Supper. All I have for you is Jesus, which you receive in these gifts: the Jesus who gives you forgiveness, life, and salvation. When you find yourselves thinking that religion and faith is supposed to be something other than those things, something other than Jesus, then repent.

And what good is Jesus? He's the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He gives Himself into death so that, through your baptism, your sin dies with Him. He rises from the dead so that, in feasting on His flesh and blood, you will rise from the dead. Cancer can't keep you down. Nothing another person does to you can harm you eternally. Nothing in this world can undo what Jesus has done for you. Nothing. Jesus Christ has conquered sin, death, devil and hell.

We fall into the trap of trying to get something other than Jesus. We want the answers. We want to read the last page of the story. But for the Pharisees, John has only Jesus. For you, there is only Jesus. And He is enough. And while we may have to wait to open our Christmas presents, today we receive the gifts of Jesus with all their forgiving and saving power. We'll receive them again on Christmas and the Sunday after that and again and again. After all, though your pastor doesn’t have all the answers, the one thing he has for you is Jesus…and that’s the one thing you need. 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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