December 18, 2022 A+D
St. John 1:19-28
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Intro: The priests and Pharisees send men to question John. They want to know who He is, why He is doing what He is doing. John turns it on them. They should be asking questions about eternity, about their sins and the Messiah. What are they doing? How are they preparing for the end? In whom and what are they trusting? John is Voice crying in the wilderness. Their crooked road needs straightening. So does ours.
We are on the path, but drunk with sin, we don’t walk a straight line. We pause and wander off. We are distracted by our children, our employment, our flesh. We don’t always see the urgency. We dawdle. This is dangerous. John comes to call us to repentance, to make sure we get home. The Christmas trees ablaze and set on the trash heap are a vivid reminder of the reality. True preparation for Christmas is repentance and faith.
John says to those who question him: “The Messiah, God-in-the-flesh stands among you, whom you do not know.”
This is shocking to us. How could they not recognize and worship Jesus in their midst?
Jesus is present among us also.
Wherever 2 or 3 are gathered in His Name.
In Word and Sacrament
We are His Temples.
And yet – some try to prepare for Christmas with baking. They skip Church to prepare for Christmas! Others try to get ready for Christmas by going into debt. They overspend, thinking they can buy happiness. Or rather than reading the Bible, they spend hours watching sappy fantasies and even insist that Santa is real – even though some of this can seriously undermine the reality of Jesus Christ.
This is a faith problem. We don’t believe that Jesus is real. We act according to faith not intellect.
Example: I know, intellectually, that sitting and watching TV for hours won’t do me any good. But I don’t really believe it. I watch it anyway because I believe it will somehow give me rest or satisfy something in me. My violation of my reason leaves me feeling bad about myself and dissatisfied.
We are not enough like John. We are self-obsessed. “Who are we? What do men think of us? What does the future hold for us?”
One suggestion: put up crucifixes. Leave a nativity scene up year round. You need reminders that Christ is present and that you belong to Him.
John as example
Follow John. He is obsessed with Christ.
He has left behind material comfort. You don’t have to start eating grasshoppers, but you do need to recognize that how you treat your body is a spiritual reality. Eating, exercising, sleeping – are spiritual activities. They can be positive or negative.
He is unashamed of the Gospel. His ministry is public. Your witness is also public. Do your coworkers know what you believe? Have you kept silent in fear of what they would think of you if they knew? Have you invited them to church? Does your language and your behavior confess Christ or self? You don’t have to dress up in camel’s hair, but what you wear and the words you use and your attention to others are spiritual acts.
Heed the Voice. Be straightened. Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, your sins. His presence stands against our sins and calls us to repentance. John is austere, but honest. Christ is present to pluck us out of this current sadness, to redeem us for Himself. He feeds us with His Body in order to straighten us, to prepare us for the end by forgiveness, to purify us that we would stand on the Last Day.
It is almost Christmas. Preparation isn’t in cookie baking and decorating and shopping. Preparation is in repentance and faith. The burning of the Christmas trees in 10 days is a harbinger of what is to come. Cling to the one thing needful. Flee this world. Trust in the Lamb born in poverty for the sake of sacrifice. He takes away your sins and He comes for you.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.