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Second Sunday in Advent

December 9, 2018 Speaker: Murray Keith Series: Advent

Passage: Luke 3:1–3:14

†††In the Name of Jesus†††
Pastor Murray Keith
Text: Luke 3:1-14
Date: December 9th, 2018; Advent 2; Series C
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
  • The stores have been preparing for Christmas for months.  
  • When I worked in retail I would order merchandise back in August and the pallets would start to arrive in October so it could be priced and ready for the holiday season.
  • Many have made preparations for the holidays by putting up lights, decorating the Christmas tree, buying gifts, baking, making plans for get-togethers with family and friends, maybe booking flights and hotels for a holiday vacation.
  • There is a lot of time and energy put into preparing for Christmas – and usually there is a lot of reward for all of the hard work.
  • The lights and decorations help people feel festive and joyful.  
  • It’s fun to watch someone open up a gift that you carefully picked out for them.  
  • Well, and if we are honest, it’s a lot of fun receiving gifts too!
  • The time spent with family and friends, the delicious meals and baking, the opportunity to maybe get away for a bit – all of these things are enjoyable and are blessings that make the Christmas season a special time of year.  
  • Without all of the hard work and preparation the holiday wouldn’t be as fun.
  • Too often, however, people forget to make spiritual preparations for Christmas.  And what a shame this is.
  • All of the time and effort we spend on preparing for the season by decorating, cooking, travelling, gift-buying – it’s all nice.
  • But the holiday quickly comes and goes, and before we know it, the Christmas trees are down, the decorations are put away, the left-overs are finished up, and its back to the same old routine.
  • On the other hand, the spiritual preparations we make for Christmas do not lead to some momentary enjoyment – but rather lead to eternal life.
  • How silly it is to spend so much time and energy on preparing for the “commercial” Christmas, while neglecting our spiritual preparations.
  • For this reason, the message of John the Baptist in today’s Gospel text is most important when he says, “Prepare the way of the Lord.”
  • John is a prophet of the old covenant of preparation.
  • The old covenant was all about preparing for the Lord and his salvation.  
  • We heard in our Gospel reading, "The voice of one crying in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of The Lord, make his paths straight.  Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough places shall become level ways, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'" 
  • John is the voice crying in the wilderness - he is the final prophet of this old covenant of preparation.
  • He receives the Word of the Lord in the wilderness just like the prophets of old.  We heard, "...the word of God came to John...and he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins."
  • John is the last of the prophets, marking the end of the old covenant - he is the one sent to prepare the way for the new covenant.
  • Even today, thousands of years later, he enables us to prepare for the way of the Lord.
  • John had harsh words for those who came out to be baptized by him because they were unrepentant.  
  • They believed that they were saved because they were children of Abraham.  
  • They thought that repentance was unnecessary because their salvation was secured by birthright.
  • We too can fall into this trap of thinking that repentance is unnecessary.  
  • We've been pretty good, we don't need to repent.  
  • We come to church and do our best, why even think about our sin - it's such a downer!
  • Repentance is not an easy act.  It requires humility.  It requires admitting that we are wrong. 
  • It requires looking honestly at ourselves in the light of God's law and acknowledging our sins and failures - rather than ignoring them. 
  • It requires a recognition that we are dependant on God and desperately need his forgiveness and grace.
  • It’s not easy to admit that we are sinners.
  • But, the sad truth is that we do not produce the good fruit our Lord expects.  
  • We simply don’t love God with all our heart and soul and strength – there have been times when we love the created more than we love the creator.   
  • There are times when we do not love our neighbours as ourselves.  Despite our best efforts, there are those we have hurt and those we have failed to help.  Our thoughts and our desires are soiled with sin.  
  • This is what Advent is all about.  
  • Preparing the way for the Lord’s coming begins when we are laid low by God’s Law, so that we may be lifted up and comforted by the Gospel of God’s grace in Christ Jesus, His Son.  
  • Repentance is key for being prepared for the way of the Lord.
  • Again, John had harsh words for the unrepentant.  He said to them, "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."
  • A few verses after our Gospel lesson he said to them, "[Christ's] winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear the threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire."
  • John uses such strong language because he has been called to prepare people for the coming Messiah.  
  • How are people to receive the Saviour if they don't believe they need saving?
  • Being people of the new covenant, we are baptized with the Holy Spirit.  
  • Now, the Holy Spirit dwells in us leading us to repent and receive the forgiveness and life that Christ won for us on the cross.
  • When we admit our sin, when we recognize the harm it causes ourselves and others, when we realize the punishment our sin deserves, when we seek to go and sin no more - when we repent - then we are prepared to receive God's forgiveness and salvation.
  • We are prepared for our Lord's coming because we have been cleansed of our sin.  In Christ we have been made holy and righteous.
  • We are prepared for our Lord's coming because we have been transformed that we to live according to his will.
  • Our transformation is not yet complete, we will still fail - but it has begun.  We all produce the fruits of our faith in different ways.
  • We show acts of kindness, forgiveness, compassion, and mercy.  
  • Our baptism and the forgiveness of our sins empower us to produce and bear the fruit of our faith - namely loving God above all things and loving our neighbours as ourselves.
  • Christmas is just a few weeks away.  Use this time wisely to prepare your hearts for the coming of Christ this Christmas: confessing your sins, meditating on his word, spending time in devotion and in prayer, receiving the sacrament, singing his praises.
  • Through his Word, through his forgiveness, through the Holy Spirit - Christ has prepared you for his coming and he will truly make your holiday season peaceful and joyful.  Amen.

More in Advent

December 16, 2018

Third Sunday in Advent

December 12, 2018

Midweek Advent 2

December 5, 2018

Midweek Advent 1