What Really Matters
Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
“Repent!” That’s the message John has for the people awaiting the coming of the Messiah. It is a tough, thankless message to preach. After all, how many illicit affairs took place last night? How many children were neglected? How many families charged up their credit cards to create the image of a perfect Christmas with a false appearance of abundance? How many try to buy or drink or sleep or cheat their way out of despair? How many words were wielded as weapons? And how many of you laid awake last night, lonely or afraid or angry or jealous, full of regret or scheming for the future? The enemy is all around us and even within us.
More than ever, St. John the Baptist is the man for our times. He has comfort for our broken-heartedness, an answer for our uncertainties. He is the voice crying in the wilderness, and we live in the wilderness. We walk in danger. We fight, flee, and die. We abandon our young, betray our friends, forget our spouses. We are not as civilized or sophisticated as we pretend. If we were, we would not have among us the homeless, the drug addicted, the criminal, the untended victim, or the adulterer. We would not lock our doors for fear of our neighbors. Our marriages would be stable. Our children would be safe. Our churches would be full.
John beckons us to open our eyes and acknowledge the wilderness around us and within us. John urges us to come out of our make-belief worlds, to face reality. Despite your pride in your strength, you are vulnerable and weak. You cannot stop a bullet. You cannot police your own streets. You have no safety in yourself or in man-made contraptions. These things only offer false comfort. Your life is fragile. Yet you sell your soul cheaply for things that rust and corrode and crumble and fade. You are obsessed with your own desires and dreams. You turn in on yourself, away from God. Wake up! Repent! You are in danger of losing everything. Repent before it is too late. Repent, for there is hope.
There is One whose sandals we are all unworthy to untie. He is not infected like we are. He is pure, clean, and righteous. He is God in human flesh. He gives Himself for and to you, to make you safe and whole and free and alive again. He baptizes with the fire of the Holy Spirit in waters filled with His Name. He bestows righteousness. He forgives and restores without an investigation of your credit history, without a payment schedule, without cost or demand or restriction! He forgives. He loves. He is the Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! He can overcome your lust, your anger, your past. He can give you a future again. And that is what matters. It’s not important who your pastor is, even if it’s John the Baptist himself. It doesn’t even matter who you are. What matters is that He is the Christ! He is the long-expected Savior, the One who loves you and restores you to the kingdom, who calls you to be His beloved Bride.
Here in the wilderness, it is hard to believe that is what matters. It seems at times like what matters is impressing your boss or getting the respect you crave from your neighbor. It seems like what matters is instant gratification. It even seems at times like what matter is justice: that life would be fair, that you and your loved ones would never be shorted or suffer in any way. But that stuff doesn’t matter on the Last Day. What matters on the Last Day is that the virgin’s Son went to the cross to redeem you, body and soul. He rose from the dead. He ascended into heaven. He comes to you in the preaching of His Word and in His body and blood. He is the Christ. He is the One anointed to be your Savior. He loves you even when no one else does or can. Jesus is the Christ, and that’s what matters for you. 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.