3rd Sunday of Advent – Sermon 93

13th February 2011 Off By Derek Buckthorpe

Prayer to start

May the words of my lips and the thoughts of our hearts be graciously received for the Glory and honour of our Lord Jesus Christ



Well – I’ve got some good news – and some bad news –
The good news is there’s only 11 days to go to Christmas day –

The bad news is – there’s still – the turkey to order – the shopping to do – the cake to ice – the mince pies to bake – the presents to buy – and a budget to balance –

Getting ready for Christmas – can be one of the most hectic times of year – for Christians – its also one of the most important –

In our Gospel reading – John tells us – there’s a right way – and a wrong way of welcoming Jesus – and its not all good news –

Lets look again at our readings – to see if it helps us- in our preparations for Christmas day –

Point 1 John the Baptist

Vipers brood! Who warned you to escape from the wrath that is to come!

Not the best of openers – for a sermon – you might think – but John’s words were meant to shock

“Prove your repentance – by the fruit you bear”

The time for excuses has passed – we have been called to bear fruit – the fruit of a changed life –

As far as John was concerned – in order to receive the good news – we must first face up to the bad news – of our sins –

Like a smoke alarm sounding off – in a smoke filled room – John warns us – that its time to wake and change – if we want to escape the flames of judgment –

God cares about everything – He cares enough to judge us – to save those who are with Him – but equally to destroy those who are not –

“His winnowing shovel is ready in His hand – to clear the threshing floor – and gather the wheat into His granary – but the chaff Her will burn – and never put it out”-

He will judge us – Not on who we are or what we have achieved – but by what’s in our hearts – our lives – our relationship with Jesus –

“Already the axe is laid to the roots of the trees – and every root that fails to produce good fruit – is cut down and thrown on the fire”

The soil in the kingdom is too precious – to have barren trees continually using it up – we must be willing to be pruned – so we can do more for God – or we risk being chopped down altogether –

If you’ve got a computer – (or a cold for that matter) – you’ll know what a virus is

If it goes unchecked – it’ll worm its way into the circuitry – until the performance is affected – and until one day – everything comes to a crashing halt

Sin is like that virus – a it chews away at the heart – bit by bit – snipping here – getting a foothold there – eating away at us – trying to break us down – if it doesn’t get checked – it won’t stop until our relationship with God is completely – severed

Sin is serious business – as John says “only those who are prepared to repent will receive the cleansing power of the Holy Spirit” –

“I baptize you with water” – he said – “but there is one mightier than I who will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire”

John knew that a symbolic water washing was not enough – we might sparkle on the day we’re baptized – but the day after – we start getting dirty again – we need the Holy Spirit to keep us on track

No doubt you’ve heard the story about the three rectors having lunch together – discussing the problem of bats in the belfry – On said – “I’ve tried everything – noise – spray – cats – nothing seems to scare them away – Another said – Yes me too -I’ve got several in my tower – I’ve even had the place fumigated – and they still won’t go away – the third said – “I baptized all mine – and made them members of the church … haven’t had one back since !”

Keeping clean requires daily washing – Jesus requires daily repentance – daily following – a life-long commitment to taking the road – He has set out for us –

– without the guidance of the Holy Spirit – and a commitment to Jesus – we can end up in the wrong place altogether –

Point 2 Zephaiah

So if Sin is the bad news – the good news must be Joy!
Zion cry out for Joy – Raise the shout of triumph

Be glad, rejoice with all your heart
The Lord your God is in your midst
He will rejoice over you and be glad
He will show you His love once more
He will exalt over you with a shout of joy

As one Bible commentator put it – the book of Zephaniah is one of the hottest books in the OT –

Sometimes called the Royal prophet – because of his family connection with King Hezakiah – who ruled at the time of Isaiah and Micah – Zephaniah burned with the Spirit of God

He spoke at a time of great unrest in Judah – raiding parties from surrounding nations were constantly attacking the borders – they’d just had a period under one of its worst Kings – Manasseh – who made idol worship and child sacrifice common practice

In the first two chapters – Zephaniah warns them that their sinful nature – will bring judgment – on themselves and Jerusalem –

For those who stray from God – the future is dark – for those who stayed faithful – there was light at the end of the tunnel –

Like John – He too – points to the coming of Jesus Christ –

“when that time comes –
I shall deal with all who suppress you
I shall rescue the lost and gather the dispersed
I shall win you renown and praise
I shall restore your fortunes before your very eyes”

Says the Lord –
And there’s good news too from Paul –

“I wish you joy in the Lord always – Again I say: all joy be yours”

Paul wrote this letter from prison – reminding us – that God brings to us – the kind of Joy – that life’s problems cannot take away –

“Do not be anxious – In everything make your requests known to God in prayer and petition with thanksgiving” –

As we journey through life – we make our own – circle of friendships – and experiences – and within that circle – we feel secure and confident – when we have to step outside – whether its doing something for the first time – standing up in public – or speaking to someone about our faith – we can feel anxious – and afraid

But – through prayer – and knowing God’s presence with us we are calmed –

Prayer is our personal conversation time – with God – Paul urges us to make sure we are fully connected as often and as long as possibly –

If we add up the time we spent in prayer each week – how long would it be? – a day? – an hour/ a few minutes?

An elderly Christian when asked what advice he would like to pass on the next generation – said, “Make prayer the first thing you try – not the last.”

With Joy and prayer – comes peace

When we bring our matters to God
– and focus on what God wants us to think about – we will have peace

“The peace of God which is beyond all understanding, will guard your hearts and your thoughts in Jesus Christ”

Many of us think that peace – only comes when our problems have disappeared – when the kids have left home – or when the mortgage has been paid –

But peace doesn’t come from a change in fortune – but – an awareness of God with us – It comes from allowing God to take charge – while we fulfill our responsibilities to Him

God brings us unshakeable joy and peace – we have so much to be thankful for – and we must be ready to receive Him always –

Point 3 What shall we do?

So we’ve had good news – and the bad news – what shall we do about it?

What shall we do – said the crowd –

“whoever has two shirts – must share with him who has none – and whoever has food must do the same”

what shall we do asks the tax collector –
“Exact no more than you’re entitled to” – do not cheat others

What shall we do asks the soldiers –
“no bullying – no blackmail – make do with your pay” – don’t be greedy

John’s message is simple – repent – and let love change your life – share your wealth – give clothing – give food – bring God’s firmness and ways into your work – into your lives and the lives of those around you – be honest – stay close to God – and God will stay close to you –


Will you have time to put Jesus at the heart of your celebrations this year? – Its not too late –

There’s still 11 days to go to Christmas Day –