Third Sunday in Advent – Sermon 272
Third Sunday in Advent
Holy Communion – CW – 10.00 a.m.
11th December 2016
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
As a little boy, I always remember being very excited at Christmas time – eagerly waiting for those presents that always seem to arrive on Christmas morning at the bottom of the bed in a large white pillow case.
Waking up at 6am (we weren’t allowed to open them before then) eagerly unwrapping the gifts to see what we had got. One year though I remember waking up and feeling a little less excited – because the numbers of presents in mine and my brother’s pillow cases were much reduced – while my sister still had lots of presents –
It wasn’t until we went downstairs to get our breakfasts a couple of hours later that the reason for the fewer number of presents was revealed.
A OO Hornby electric train set all laid out on a board on the front room floor ready to play with.
It was a Christmas and a present I have never forgotten – and whilst I no longer have my cherished OO electric train set – which increased each year to take over the entire front room – the joy of that Christmas, the seeing and receiving of that train set still remains.
Overcoming those initial impressions and misunderstandings and eventually receiving more that I could ever have hoped for – turned that Christmas into the most memorable of my childhood –
In a sense – there is a little bit of this in our Gospel reading today.
Point 1 John the Baptist – a voice in the wilderness
John the Baptist – had been arrested and imprisonment by King Herod –
He had spent his ministry as a voice in the wilderness – preparing for the coming of the Messiah – the true King of Isael –
People had come from all around – to hear John speak – dressed in a rough coat of camel’s hair and leather belt around his waist – eating food of locusts and wild honey – he commanded great respect and attention – the people would fall on their knees in repentance before God – and be baptized by John and his disciples –
Jesus Himself was baptized by John – at the river Jordan – John recognized Jesus – and afterwards – witnessed the Spirit of God descending on Him like a dove – and a voice from heaven saying, ‘This is my beloved Son – in whom I take delight’
But that was then – and this was now –
John was now in a different sort of wilderness – unsure about his future and the future of the message he had delivered –
His influence with the people was waning –and Jesus’ influence was increasing – and many of his disciples – had left to join Jesus –
in prison John was hearing what the people were saying about Jesus – but was unsure of how things were going
where were the things John preached about? – repentance – judgment? – Jesus was preaching of mercy and forgiveness – hardly the things – that will bring about a rapid transformation of the situation – John may have even hoped that Jesus would confront Herod himself – overpower him and free his cousin from jail –
So John sent some of his remaining disciples – to question Jesus – so that they and he could be sure that the kingdom he had proclaimed was being assembled before their eyes –
‘Are you the one who is to come – or are we to wait for another?’
Point 2 Jesus’ response
Jesus’ response to John’s disciples was – that they should – look around and decide for themselves –
‘Go and tell John what you see and hear’ –
says Jesus –
Jesus repeated some of the signs of the Messiah’s coming – as foretold by Isaiah –
Does not the blind receive their sight? The lame walk? The lepers made clean? The deaf hear? The dead raised and the poor have good news brought to them? – But He falls short of openly announcing Himself as the Messiah –
Jesus is performing great miracles – teaching on his own authority – chosen 12 disciples – two of whom originally followed John – and sent them out to tell the whole country about Himself – and God’s kingdom movement – but Jesus wasn’t going to let word get back to Herod’s Palace that He is claiming to be a king.
His final words to John and his followers’ is – not to stumble – over Jesus’ willingness to heal and forgive – there is a time for judgment – but now Jesus says – is a time for grace – ‘The blessed is anyone who takes no offence at me’
This too – is a reminder for us – today – that those who don’t know Jesus – don’t need to know they are sinners – what they need to know is that there’s hope – for them – in Jesus Christ –
The waiting is now over – and John’s ways are at an end – the seeds of God’s kingdom and the proof of his love are bursting into a new and impressible life – from here on there will be a new agenda – of mercy – love – and restoration – centered around Jesus –
When John’s disciples leave – Jesus speaks openly of the importance that John has had on – the coming of the kingdom – Jesus acclaims him as His Herald – and greater than any of the former prophets –
John’s ministry was to prepare the world for the coming of Jesus – his contribution was vital to God’s plan – but John never saw the cross or the resurrection – he helped in the painting but never saw the finished picture –
Point 3 Our response
But that was then and this is now –
today – like those disciples of John – we are asked to decide what our response is – to what we have seen and heard about Jesus
Do we believe and act as if He is the One – or are we expecting someone else?
Like John the Baptist we are called to point the way – for Jesus to come into the lives of others –
There will be many this Christmas – who will need Jesus’ message of hope and forgiveness – and we will need to play our part in helping that message get through –
When Jesus comes He makes a change – and its not always – what we expect – He does not stand over us like a policeman – but encourages us to – work things out for ourselves
Our understanding of Jesus grows and changes through our experiences of Him –
He calls us to trust Him – and act knowing He is God’s Son – and spread His message of forgiveness and love to all who will receive it –
like John we plan and work and make our contribution the best we know how – we try to shape things in the way nearest to what we believe is God’s will – not seeing clearly beyond the next decision – but trusting that things will work out –
and like John fulfillment for us will not lie in seeing the end of our own beginning – but in doing our own bit – with all the faithfulness we can bring to it – and knowing that if what we are doing is within His will – it will be accomplished –
Advent is the season of waiting … and hoping … and wishing for some assurance that God does indeed love us and that God is in control of our lives and the future.
Advent calls us to make room in our hearts and lives for the coming of the Christ child, the Saviour of the world – to make it possible for Him to come by smoothing out some of the rough places that block his way.
Advent teaches us to be watchful – not to lose hope but to live with patient expectation – seeing what God is doing around us and responding to this love in action – through His church – showing others that Jesus is our rescuer and our redeemer.
We don’t know if everything will come together the way we hope – but we are much stronger with Jesus – and He calls us to trust that His message of love and forgiveness will succeed –
The giving and receiving of gifts at Christmas is a reminder of the gift God gave us when He sent Jesus into the world –
We in turn are called to give our whole lives – for His glory – not just today – or at Christmas – but every day – knowing that His love and presence will transform our most optimistic expectations – into something unforgettable and more glorious than we could ever have imagined –
In the name of the Father Son and Holy Spirit