December 08, 2019: 2nd Sunday in Advent

Dear Lord Christ, none of us can aspire to be as faithful and driven in our confession of You as John the Baptist.  But we can learn much from him.  So, today teach us how You picked him, nurtured him, gave him a mission, and used him to benefit everyone he met—leading them to salvation in You.  In the process, teach all of us that in our own lives You are using us for such great and holy purposes, too.  Lord, for this we are honored.  Amen


TEXT:  Matthew 3: 1-12

Dearly Beloved By Christ:

          “Of those born of woman, none is greater than John the Baptist.”  Christ said that.  There is no higher praise, is there?  So, what do we know about John?  First, he was a cousin of Christ through his mother Elizabeth.  Second, he was about 6 months older than Jesus.—Recall how John “leaped in the womb” of Elizabeth when a newly pregnant Mary came to visit.  (John knew in the womb that his Savior was “in the room.”)  Third, John was taught by the Spirit directly in the wilderness, much like St. Paul later on.  Fourth, John began his ministry at age 30, so he had only 6 months to “prepare the way of the Lord” before Christ burst on the scene.  Fifth, his clothing and diet were austere, much like his message: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”  Sixth, many of John’s early followers later became disciples of Christ: Andrew, Philip, Peter, James and John.  Seventh, John continued his ministry for about a year until he was killed by King Herod.—Foreshadowing Christ’s own death for preaching repentance.  And all of this reveals to us that John was chosen by God, blest by God, and special to God—just like each of you!


          John upset the religious status quo of Judea immediately.  He fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy: “A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord make straight paths for him.’”  In other words, iron out, bulldoze down the emotional roadblocks and spiritual dead-ends that sinful humans throw up to keep God at bay.  Since the Pharisees and Sadducees were the religious elite who thought they knew it all, John immediately singled them out for attack.  When John saw some of these self-righteous leaders coming to his public baptisms, he said: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.  And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.  I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham.”

          No matter your current politics, this is akin to John attacking the Jewish “deep state.”  It is him exposing the lies and hypocrisy of thinking that God owed them because they acted the part of pious believers, or they had the most prestigious education of the day, or they were entitled to God’s blessing because of their Jewish birthright.  John basically said: “None of this matters!  All of it is garbage when weighed against God’s perfection and the holiness He demands.  Only heart-felt sorrow of your sins and belief in God’s saving grace matters.  In short, John was about stripping away pretense.  And people don’t like it when their religious nakedness is exposed for all to see…..We may think we’re “emperors” in our own little world, but before God the “emperor has no clothes.”


          Before John even came, religious, ceremonial washing with water was part of ancient Jewish tradition.  But now, as a precursor of Christ’s sacrament of baptism, John inaugurated baptism as a washing away of sins.—Done publicly for all to see.  It was an inward and outward washing away of human pride and taking on the coming humbleness of faith in Christ.  John baptized into the coming Christ, while you and I have been baptized into the Christ Who HAS come.  But the effects are the same. All this so that we can produce “good fruit” which has been created and fed by Christ’s holiness via the water of eternal life.

          And make no mistake, John was intimately acquainted with Christ and always mindful of His preeminence as we see from these words concerning Christ: “But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry.”

          Each of you is just as special to God as John the Baptist.  He knew you in eternity.  He allowed you to be born with individualized gifts.  He brought you to faith in Christ.  And He has showered your life with blessings.  Your purpose in life is not the same as John’s in that Christ has already come and saved us with His life, death, and resurrection from the dead.  No, your purpose is to confront sin in whatever form it takes, to call yourself and others to account, to share with them God’s saving grace, and to be a beacon of light and love amid a world desperately in need of both.  John was in the “people business”.  I’m in the “people business”.  Every one of you is in the “people business”.  So, on this 2nd Sunday of Advent, as you meet, greet, and get ready to entertain people who all need Christ—remember your high calling by remembering John the Baptist. Yes, prepare the way of the Lord, whose birthday we celebrate in but 17 days!   Amen


Pastor Thomas H. Fox

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