Sunday, December 15, 2019

Sermon for 12/15/19: Third Sunday in Advent

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Hear and See

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

John the Baptist receives the highest praise given to any man. Jesus calls John the greatest. Yet even the greatest of men is still a man, still infected with Adam’s curse. John’s greatness is the greatness of grace, of what God had done in him and for him. He is a prophet of the most High. Indeed, he is the culmination of all prophets. He calls stiff-necked, hard-hearted men to repentance. Yet above all, he brings Good News from God. He announces the Messiah and gives voice to the Church’s new song: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”
John has faith. He held this faith already in his mother’s womb. He leapt for joy at the sound of Mary’s voice, for in her womb, his Savior had taken up flesh. This faith was made perfect in Christ, just like ours. He sent his disciples to Jesus to ask Him, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?” Maybe he sent his disciples to Jesus for their sake. Maybe they were doubting. John sent them to the Source.
But John was a man, a sinner. He knew doubt and fear. Perhaps his time in a prison cell made him wonder if his divine Cousin really was the Promised One. If that is the case, then we get a remarkable glimpse into the greatness of John. Faith is like courage. Courage is not the absence of fear. Rather, courage is acting, doing what needs to be done, despite fear and with knowledge of the danger. In the same way, faith is not the absence of doubt; it is believing and clinging to God’s Word despite doubts and in the midst of danger, with the ever-present reality of earthly consequences, trusting above all that God is good and will not let us down. The greatness of John’s faith is not demonstrated so much in his martyrdom, but in where he looked for answers. He looks to Christ. That is faith as only God can give.
And Jesus, in his great compassion, did not disappoint. He gave John an answer custom made for the last and greatest of the prophets: “The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised and the poor have the Gospel preached to them.” The prophecies, even John’s, are all fulfilled. Jesus has done what He came to do.
We, of course, are not sending notes to Jesus from prison. We could be home, warm in bed. Are we here this cold December day to hear the Word, to be broken and healed, to confess and be forgiven? That’s exactly why were are here, and that is always worth getting out of bed for! But if John was not worthy to untie our Lord’s sandals, then certainly we are not worthy to eat Christ’s body and blood, to approach Him so boldly in prayer! But by grace—always by grace—ours is the Kingdom of heaven.
What John for all his greatness could not obtain by right or power has been given to you as pure gift, the inheritance of the baptized. Jesus Christ, God with us in flesh, is your Lord. Your heavenly Father has given you His Holy Spirit; by His grace you believe His holy Word. You embrace it. You rejoice in it. You hunger for it and are satisfied. You are His children, His heirs. He has removed all guilt and shame from you. He has bestowed His holy Name on you. He gave His very life for you. You will soon leave these doubts and weaknesses behind and come to the loving arms of your Savior. Your warfare is ended. Your iniquity is pardoned.
Look and see: “The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised and the poor have the Gospel preached to them.” The Messiah was born for you. He died and rose for you. He is coming back for you. You will see Him with your own eyes, and your throat will fill the night with songs of praise and joy. 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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