Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Advent Midweek 3: "Jesus' Advent in Human Flesh"

+ Advent Midweek 3 – December 17th, 2014 +
Redeemer Lutheran, HB
“Jesus is Coming: The Hymns of Advent”
Savior of the Nations Come
Isaiah 9:1-7; John 1:1-14
In the Name of + Jesus. Amen.
In Advent we sing the faith.
We’ve spent the midweek services reflecting on the hymns of Advent. Hopefully they get good and stuck in your head whenever you leave church. Take them home. Read, mark, and meditate on the words. Sing, rejoice, and share them.
In Advent our voices join with those who accompanied Jesus’ advent in human flesh with singing.
After Gabriel’s visitation, Mary sang the Magnificat. My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.
At the birth of John the Baptist, Zechariah sang the Benedictus. “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David”
At Jesus’ birth the angels sang the Gloria in Excelsis. Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior.
Simeon sings the Nunc Dimittis as he holds 40-day-old Jesus in his arms. “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation…
Did you hear the common word in all of those songs?
Savior. This is Jesus’ name: Jeshua. YHWH Saves. His name is Jesus for he will save his people from their sins. Jesus saves you from your sin.
And so in Advent we pray, confess, and sing: Savior of the Nations, Come.
Just like the Advent season, this hymn is all about Jesus your savior. It’s a sermon set to music. It’s the Creed in song and poetry, a beautiful and faithful confession of Christ’s incarnation, suffering, death, resurrection, and ascension.
In Advent we sing the faith:
For the Savior of the nations has come in human flesh to save you.
We sing because we need a savior. Isaiah was writing about us too. We are the people who dwell in darkness and in a land of deep darkness. Sin clouds our minds in ignorance. We do not love the Lord our God with all our heart, and soul, and mind. Sin is a pitch-black abyss of unbelief. Sin is the darkness of the coffin lid shutting out the last ray of light. Like dogs we foolishly think we can bury our sins in the darkness so our Master won’t uncover them.
Savior of the Nations, Come. Lighten the darkness of our hearts by your gracious visitation. For apart from you o Lord, who can be saved? Not by human flesh and blood, By the Spirit of our God. What is impossible for man is possible for God.
The Virgin’s Son makes his home with us. Jesus is conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. The Son of God becomes our brother. Jesus is born in humility and darkness to rescue you from the darkness of death by his humility. Jesus is born in the darkness of a stable for us who sit in the darkness of sin and in the shadow of death. For unto us a child is born. Unto you a Son is given.
Mary’s womb became the throne room. God assumes all of humanity into himself. In Jesus’ incarnation, not only does heaven come to earth wrapped in swaddling clothes, but heaven grasps earth. The God who cannot be seen is now seen in baby Jesus. The God who cannot be counted in days, weeks, months, or years, is born, grew in wisdom and stature, he died. All for you. The darkness of our sins is overcome by the Light of Christ that shines forth from the manger.
For you the King of heaven rules and reigns from the straw of a feeding trough. For you God the Creator becomes a creature to save you and all creation. The Lord who is enthroned in the cherubim is pleased to surround himself with sheep, shepherds, and sinners.
The Savior of the nations has come in human flesh to save you. And his birth is only the beginning.
Then stepped forth the Lord of all
From His pure and kingly hall;
God of God, yet fully man,
His heroic course began.
God the Father was His source,                          
Back to God He ran His course.
Into hell His road went down,
Back then to His throne and crown.
In this Advent hymn we confess the entire Creed. The same Jesus who was born of Mary was also born to die for you. The Father sends his only Son to save us from our sins against him. The same Lord enthroned in straw and stable was crowned with thorns and pierced for you. The King of heaven fixed with nails to wood for you.
Christmas sounds the horn of salvation. Your redemption is here. The infant King is on the move. And the thorns and thistles are in retreat. The rivers and fields clap their hands; the hills and plains shout for joy. Creation’s groaning turns to gladness. Jesus’ advent in human flesh is the sequel to Genesis 1, 2, and 3 – a sequel that no one expected to be written.
Jesus comes to you written not in ink but wrapped in the substance of his creation, the Word became flesh. The Savior of the nation comes to you, not “once upon a time” or “in a galaxy far, far away” but in the days of Caesar Augustus, when Qurinius was governor of Syria. He was crucified for you under Pontius Pilate.
For You are the Father’s Son
Who in flesh the vict’ry won.
By Your mighty power make whole
All our ills of flesh and soul.
From the manger newborn light
Shines in glory through the night.
Darkness there no more resides;
In this light faith now abides.
His birth. His life. His suffering. His weeping. His praying. His healing. His preaching. His bleeding. His dying. He did all of this for you. He did not die for his transgressions. He died for you. He did not need victory over sin and death, you did. That is why the Savior of the Nations came to you. To rescue you and all nations. His triumph over the devil is yours. In Jesus’ flesh your sin is defeated, your death is destroyed, and your captor, the devil is crushed by the Seed of the woman. God’s promise in Genesis 3 is fulfilled. The shadow of death swallow Jesus up on Good Friday. But the Light shines in the darkness and the darkness could not overcome Jesus. And neither will it overcome you.
In Advent we sing the faith. The Savior of the Nations has come in human flesh to save you.
And Jesus still comes to save you. Heaven comes to earth. In the bread and the wine upon our lips and in our mouths, God is there upon his throne. The Virgin’s son makes his home with you in your Baptism; you are a temple for the Holy Spirit. Marvel now o heav’n and earth that our Lord gives you new birth. By his mighty power you are made whole in Baptism. In the Supper the Savior of the Nations comes to heal all your ills of flesh and soul by his flesh and blood, given and shed for you.
What a joyous reason to pray, confess, and sing…
Glory to the Father sing,
Glory to the Son, our King,
Glory to the Spirit be
Now and through eternity.
In the Name of + Jesus. Amen.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Advent 3 Sermon: "Can I Get A Witness?"

+ Advent 3 – December 14th, 2014 +
Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Series B: Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24; John 1:6-8, 19-28
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
“All rise. The Superior Court of the Jordan River Valley is now in session. The honorable LORD, judge of heaven and earth presiding.”
“The priests and Levites of Jerusalem versus John the Baptist, aka the Voice.”
“Will the prosecuting attorney please call their first witness to the stand?”
“Yes, your honor.”
“We call John the Baptist to the stand.”
“Please stand. Place your left hand on the scroll. Raise your right hand. Do you promise that the testimony you shall give in the case before this court shall be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?”
“I do.”
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.
That’s right. John’s back. But for all the air-time John gets in Advent he never seeks the spotlight. He is not the light. He is a witness to the light. John is a mirror. Jesus is the Light. John is the moon. Jesus is the Sun. John is the index finger. Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. John is the voice. Jesus is the Word made flesh.
John’s witness to Jesus prepares us to witness His advent.
John confesses Jesus, not himself. That’s why John is always a bit of an enigma to skeptics and unbelievers…even more so to believers.
And his appearance certainly doesn’t help. John the ultimate hipster was uncool before it was cool to be uncool; he wore only custom made camel-skin clothing, ate local, non-GMO, grass-fed, organic, range-free locusts, and fair trade wild honey.
John’s strange look is accompanied by an even stranger message. Who does this guy think he is, telling us to prepare, repent, and make straight the way of the Lord?
“Who are you?” the Pharisees inquire. The wilderness becomes a courtroom. John is in the dock.
And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?”  He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.”
John is a witness. And witnesses, by definition, spend little time talking about themselves. A witness has one job: tell the truth about the person or event to which they are testifying. John declares that Jesus is the Christ, the anointed one, the long-expected Savior. The wilderness is ripe with messianic expectation, even if those expectations are misplaced and the Messiah is misunderstood. So, John confesses: I am not the Christ.
What then? Are you Elijah?
Though Jesus later would teach us that John came in the spirit of Elijah, preparing the way of the Lord, John bears witness again: I am not.
Are you the prophet?
Are you the prophet greater than even Moses, foretold in Deuteronomy 18?
Who are you? We have TPS reports to fill out. Headquarters is waiting. We need to know. What do you say about yourself?
I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”
The voice. That’s what John is. He even lets the prophet Isaiah speak for him.
John is a faithful witness. John prepares the way of the Lord. The Lord whom Isaiah said would be born of a Virgin and the root of Jesse. The Lord who is the righteous branch of David’s family tree and the Suffering Servant. The Lord who will preach good news, heal, and set the captives free. John prepares the world for the Lord’s advent.
For John, the defense never rests. To the very moment his head is on a platter he’s pointing people to Christ. Even in death he is a faithful witness to Christ. That word martyr means witness. We saw this kind of martyrdom last week as four little Christian children were beheaded the ISIS devils for confessing Christ. Martyrs are witnesses.
Just as John was a faithful witness to Christ’s first Advent, in these last days, John is a faithful witness to Jesus’ present and final advent. John’s witness to Jesus prepares us to witness His advent.
And he does it all with water and word. Our Advent preparation begins with John in the wilderness. The dust of the desert reminds us that we are all sons of Adam and daughters of Eve. Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return. Without the Light of Christ, the wilderness is a dark place. Unlike Star Wars, there is no balance between the light and the dark. Light is life. Darkness is death. Its power is a farce, a trap. Christ is your Light. Christ is your life. Anything or anyone outside of Chris is darkness and death.
That’s where John begins our advent preparation, in the wilderness…in the darkness. John calls us to confess with him. Confess that we are captive to sin and imprisoned by death. Confess that we have not honored the Lord’s name as we should, that our worship and prayers have faltered, that our love for God and others has failed, that our thoughts and desires are soiled with sin. Confess that we love to deny who we are as God’s baptized children. John calls us to confess and repent. To deny ourselves. Die to sin. And live in Christ. Your Light is coming.
John’s witness to Jesus prepares us to witness His advent.
So, John draws us out into the wilderness where your only life is where there is water. Jesus makes his way straight through the font to you. Your Baptism is Jesus’ advent. Your Holy Baptism is also Jesus’ witness to you. Your Baptism testifies that you are buried and raised with Jesus. Your life is hidden with Christ in water, and His word: You are forgiven.
Christ the Light shines in your Baptism. The darkness of sin is banished and washed away by Jesus. No camels’ hair clothing for you. No, you’re clothed with the garments of salvation. Robed in Christ’s righteousness. Adorned as his pure, holy, and spotless bride.
John’s confession is also our confession.
Who are you? Are you a child of Adam left to die in the wilderness?
No. I am baptized into Christ.
Are you a voice crying out alone in the darkness of death?
No, I am baptized into Christ.
What do you say about yourself?
I am baptized into Christ.
In this life, the church is like John. We are witnesses to the Light. We confess Christ, not ourselves. John’s witness to Jesus prepares us to witness His advent.
Just as John prepared the world for Jesus’ first advent, so too, John prepares us to flee from the wrath to come when Christ comes again in glory. John prepares us for Jesus’ advent during this advent where we witness Jesus coming in his holy Word, his Holy Baptism, His holy Absolution, and in his Holy Supper.
We confess, and do not deny, but we confess: Jesus is present for me here and now with his body and blood for my forgiveness. We confess: Jesus gives us pardon and peace in this Sacrament. We confess: Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is given to us in this Sacrament.
We are witnesses. We point to Jesus. We witness to Jesus when we support Redeemer’s preschool, evangelism efforts, or Hispanic Outreach. We witness to Christ when we visit our friends, families, and members when they are in need. We witness to Jesus when we invite our friends and neighbors to church and bible study. We witness to Jesus when we share the witness of John with them: Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, for you.
And like John, the defense never rests. Confession is how we live in Advent. We confess the Creed. We confess and receive the Sacrament. We confess our faith as we sing. We seek to teach his word faithfully; to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. For we do not know when the court will adjourn.
But we do know the verdict.
For you have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous one. Jesus intercedes for you. Jesus is your mediator.
Satan may be our accuser, but all of his evidence – and let’s face it, there’s plenty against us – it’s all thrown out of court. Christ the judge declares all of it inadmissible. Satan can accuse you no more. In Christ there is no condemnation. For the blood of Jesus covers all your sins. Jesus denies himself, and takes up your cross. Christ your judge steps down from his chair and takes your place. He allows the gavel to fall on himself, three times to be exact, all for you. Christ the judge becomes your advocate. The innocent for the guilty so that the guilty would be made innocent. Jesus assumes the punishment for all your offenses. And yet He lives for you. Case closed. Court adjourned. You are a free man in Jesus. Rejoice! Go your way and bear witness to the Light.
John’s witness to Jesus prepares us to witness His advent.
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Advent Midweek Sermon: "Jesus' Advent in His Word and Sacraments"

+ Advent Midweek 2 – December 10th, 2014 +
Redeemer Lutheran, HB
“Jesus is Coming: The Hymns of Advent”
Once He Came in Blessing
Galatians 4:1-7; Luke 4:16-22
In the Name of + Jesus. Amen.
Ever notice how many hymns in our Lutheran Service Book begin with a confession of our sin? Quite a few.
Each Divine Service begins this way too. Before Jesus announces his advent in his Word, and before Jesus makes his advent among us in the Holy Supper, we prepare by confessing that we’re poor miserable sinners.
You won’t find that subject on any book shelf in any store these days, not with all the self-help-this, YOLO-that, and Every-day-a-Friday type books. Even in Christian bookstores you’ll never see a book titled: “How to confess that all our deeds are filthy rags.” Or “The Diary of a Poor Miserable, Loser and Beggar of a Sinner.” Now, that’s true and biblical…but it doesn’t sell.
Instead people say things like: “I’m basically a good person.” “Who are you to judge me, man?” “Yea, I visited a Lutheran church once…everything was great except for all that sin talk.”
People are fine with religion as long as they’re given a short, manageable list of rules to follow, it makes them feel good, and even better if God is kept at a distance. But talk about sin in in general or someone’s sins in particular and all hell breaks loose. We can’t handle the truth.
But without a clear teaching of sin, there can be no clear hope of salvation. If sin is merely a behavioral problem, then Jesus’ birth, life, and death are unnecessary.
To receive a proper treatment there must be a proper diagnosis.
Advent gives us both: Repentance and forgiveness. Because in Advent, Jesus comes to forgive you.
Listen to how this week’s hymn begins:
Once He came in blessing,
All our sins redressing;
Came in likeness lowly,
Son of God most holy;
Bore the cross to save us;
Hope and freedom gave us.
Sin makes us crooked. Everything is bent and curved inward upon ourselves: our thoughts, words, and deeds. Curved inward and away from our family members’, fellow Christians, and even the poor and needy in our community. Our sinful condition mirrors. Creation groans, man sweats, toils, and finally dies. The wages of sin is death. This fallen world is like the twisted, mangled forest of thorns in Sleeping Beauty. That’s what sin does it takes what is good in God’s creation and warps, distorts, and corrupts it. Sin is more than a flesh wound; it’s a fatal curse. We’re enslaved, as Paul says, to the elementary principles of this world: to the devil’s great lie: “you can be like god, you won’t die; you are free.” But it’s a trap. Everyone who sins is a slave to sin. The ancient dragon entices us with liberty but only shackles us in captivity and bondage to sin and death.
Hope and freedom are only found in Jesus.
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.
Once he came in blessing, all our sins redressing. Redressing means to set something right. To remedy or repair, even to make atonement. This is why Jesus was born. This was the reason for his Advent in human flesh.
In Advent Jesus comes to forgive you. Jesus comes with something better than a true love’s kiss. To raise us from the sleep of death he joins us in our humanity. Love caused his incarnation. His love for you led him to the cross. The Prince of Peace is born in lowliness to die in lowliness to defeat the devil, and give you true freedom. Jesus dies in lowliness for your pride. He gives you his holiness in exchange for your dirty rags of unrighteousness. Jesus’ cross and death for your sin. Jesus is led captive by the devil, imprisoned in the grave to bring you resurrection, life, and forgiveness. The devil fell for the trap. Took the bait. Went after the wrong Prince. Jesus’ death is Death’s undoing. Jesus defeated the ancient serpent, crushed his head. The dragon is slain. You are free.
In Advent Jesus proclaims liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind. Jesus sets at liberty those who are oppressed. In Advent Jesus comes to forgive you.
Now He gently leads us;
With Himself He feeds us
Precious food from heaven,
Pledge of peace here given,
Manna that will nourish
Souls that they may flourish.
Advent is about Jesus coming. Though we celebrate Jesus’ first coming in human flesh, it’s not like we’re celebrating an annual baby-shower. Even at Christmas, we already know the end of the story. Jesus is born to die for you. It’s not bad to want to see Jesus. That’s our hope. But you don’t need a time machine to travel back to Bethlehem to see Jesus. By his Word, Water, Body and Blood Jesus is closer to us than he was lying in that stable giving Mary and Joseph googly baby eyes. In the Sacrament we have it better for we always have Jesus wherever his Word and Supper and Baptism are present.
In Advent Jesus comes to forgive you. Jesus brings you to a greater Bethlehem – a house of Bread – where simple bread houses his body for your forgiveness. The same blood that pumped through his veins in new born life, comes to give you eternal life. Jesus is laid in the greater manger of the chalice for you. In the Holy Sacrament the same flesh and blood born of Mary is now wrapped and swaddled in bread and wine for you.
The Lord’s Supper is Christmas for you. Jesus forgives you. The Word made flesh dwells among us in the lowly, yet glorious substance of bread and wine. The Eucharist is the best Christmas feast ever. Jesus is precious food from heaven given to you here on earth for your forgiveness; for the redressing of all your sins. Jesus’ body and blood are God’s pledge of peace for you. In Jesus’ death you are at peace. In receiving Jesus’ body and blood you eat and drink peace.
In Advent Jesus comes to forgive you. And not only by his body and blood. But also in the water and word of your Baptism, where you are wrapped and the swaddling clothes of his righteous death for you. And in the holy Absolution where the Prince of Peace declares good news to poor miserable sinners. You are forgiven all your sins.
In Advent Jesus comes to forgive you, and prepare you for his coming, as we sing in the last two stanzas of this hymn.
Soon will come that hour
When with mighty power
Christ will come in splendor
And will judgment render,
With the faithful sharing
Joy beyond comparing.
Come, then, O Lord Jesus,
From our sins release us.
Keep our hearts believing
That we, grace receiving,
Ever may confess You
Till in heav’n we bless You.
 St. Bernard once wrote that “In the first coming, Christ comes in the flesh and in weakness; in the second, He comes in Spirit and power; in the third, He comes in glory and majesty; and the second coming is the means whereby we pass from the first to the third.”
Jesus’ advent and incarnation are best and most clearly celebrated among us in the Lord’s Supper. This is how we’re prepared for Jesus’ final advent in glory.
 Joy in Christ’s advent in flesh. Joy in his advent in Word and Sacrament. Joy in Jesus’ advent in glory. And what joy that will be. C.S. Lewis once said that “joy is the serious business of heaven.” That’s heaven alright: a grand, never-ending, crowded banquet table full of joyous hymn-singing, a place where sin is no more, and the faithful enjoy eternal communion with Christ, the Lamb who is at the center of it all: the host, waiter, and meal. In Advent, Jesus comes to forgive you.
 Come, Lord Jesus. Come in advent to forgive us. Come in advent to release us from our sin and death. Ransom captive Israel. Bring us home. And until then, keep us faithful, keep our hearts believing, our lips confessing, and our mouths rejoicing. Till in heav’n we bless you.
In the Name of + Jesus. Amen.

Advent 2 Sermon: "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Advent"

+ Advent 2 – December 7, 2014 +
Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Series B: Isaiah 40:1-11; 2 Peter 3:8-14; Mark 1:1-8

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 Advent is about beginnings.

The church year begins anew.

Christ begins to prepare us for his advent by repentance, forgiveness, and joy. “Prepare the way of the Lord.”

John’s baptism points forward to Jesus’ greater baptism for you by water, word, and the Holy Spirit, the beginning of your new life in Christ.

Advent is about beginnings.

It’s the beginning of the end-times. The King has landed. His reign has begun.

It’s the beginning of Jesus’ journey to the cross. The road goes ever on and on, from Bethlehem to the Jordan River, through Galilee to Jerusalem.

And it’s the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

So St. Mark begins his Gospel. Mark does not record the birth of Jesus; no angels or shepherds, no dreaming Joseph or pondering Mary, simply: the beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

In Mark’s Gospel, you won’t hear the proclamation “Son of God” spoken again until Jesus is on the cross. Jesus is most clearly the “Son of God” when he’s suffering and dying for you.

That’s the Gospel. Jesus crucified for you. Gospel means Good News. John’s advent good news is the coming Savior. Everything John says and does points to Jesus’ advent and our new beginning in him.

“Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
    who will prepare your way,
the voice of one crying in the wilderness:
    ‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
    make his paths straight,’”

 St. Mark introduces us to John the Baptizer by quoting Isaiah. But Mark also quotes Exodus 23:20 as God prepares Israel’s way into the Promised Land and Malachi 3:1 where YHWH prepares Israel for his own coming.

What does that say about Jesus? Is he descendant of Abraham, Israel’s son? Or is he the Son of God, God almighty in human flesh come to save? Yes! Jesus is true God and true man. Jesus is the perfect substitute for Israel and for you; like you in all respects yet without sin.

 Remember, Jesus’ advent is about beginnings.

 And you always know it’s Advent when John the Baptizer shows up. John’s job description is simple: prepare the way of the Lord. Advent means preparation. Advent is about beginnings.

John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

Location is everything for John. The wilderness is his church; the Jordan River his pulpit. These locations are no accident. They mirror the message. The wilderness recalls Israel’s wandering. 40 years of waiting for the Promised Land. Wanting to find the home promised to them by YHWH. Testing. Sinning. Dying. That’s life in the wilderness. A wasteland.

But the wilderness isn’t just “out there” in the world. No, the wilderness is in each of us too. Like an arid, hot wind, our words and deeds scorch our fellow members, spouses, friends, and even people we don’t know. Our tongues are a raging wild fire against God and neighbor. Our inward thoughts are a sandstorm of sin, sticking to us like particles of sand; everything we say and do is gritty with our sin. We are quick to anger and slow to repent. We live as if God does not matter and as if we matter most of all. Our conscience is parched by death and stained with guilt. Repent. The Kingdom of God is near.

Like Israel, we’re looking forward to coming home but we know we’re not home yet. We’re in lonely exile.

John prepares the way. His preaching hits us like 80 grit sand paper: smooth the rough places of our arrogance and stubbornness of sin. John, the one man road crew, bull-dozes our mountains of pride and levels our hypocrisy. John is sent to make us uncomfortable in our sin and if you’re not, well that should make us all the more uncomfortable. For try as you might, you cannot live in the wilderness. Left on your own, you will surely die.

What you need is an oasis in the desert. In the wilderness you need the Jordan River, a new beginning.

The Jordan River, where Namaan washed 7 times and was cleansed of leprosy; where Joshua led Israel into the promised land; where Elijah’s cloak parted the waters. Jesus comes to the same river and parts enters the waters with a new Elijah. Jesus – the greater Joshua – opens the way to a greater promised land. Jesus stands in solidarity with sinners to soak up the leprosy of our sin, and give you a new beginning in Holy Baptism.

Jesus comes into our wilderness. Jesus joins us in our humanity – our human family - so that through and in Baptism you are joined to God’s family. He is born into the holy family so that you become part of the most holy of families, Christ’s bride, the Church. Jesus joins you in the wasteland in order to bring you home. Jesus is captive in our exile of sin in order to ransom, redeem, and rescue you.

Jesus goes into the wilderness and he comes back out again with you on his shoulders. Jesus overcame temptation. Jesus was tested and found faithful. Jesus did not sin. And he did this all for you. Jesus even dies for you, not in the wilderness of Judea, but the wasteland of Calvary. Jesus’ crucified is your oasis in the wilderness. His wounds and scars are your safe haven from the scorching heat of God’s wrath.

For you, Jesus was slow to anger and patient, not wanting us to perish. For you, Jesus lived and died because you mattered most of all to him. For you, Jesus was left alone, forsaken on the cross, so that you will not die. For you, Jesus sends John to prepare his way.

John prepares by preaching baptism; a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. This was not yet the full baptism. That comes later when Jesus instituted Baptism after his resurrection. But it has all the right signs of the real thing. There’s repentance, water, washing and cleansing, and forgiveness of sins.

John’s baptism was good, but it wasn’t enough. He was not the Christ. He was only the beginning. Everything he said and did was to prepare the way of the Lord, even his clothing…

Now John was clothed with camel's hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey.

John reminds me a bit of Doc from Back to the Future – looks a little crazy, a bit off-putting at first, but it turns out he has something important to say. There’s more to John than meets the eye. The camel hair, locusts, and wild honey are clues that John is a second Elijah. When Elijah came again, so would the Messiah. John is the last of the prophets proclaiming that Jesus’ saving work was beginning.

 “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.”

When John the Baptizer speaks, I can’t help but think of Wayne’s World: “We’re not worthy.” John gets it though: “I’m not worthy,” he says. “I am insufficient before the Lord.” This is the heart of Christianity. We must decrease. Jesus must increase. John’s words teach us that repentance is God’s work in us, not something we contrive. In repentance we echo John’s words: “I am not worthy. I am insufficient.”

This is why Jesus was born: to take our insufficiency upon himself; to make our unworthiness his own, and give you his worthiness in return. He birth and death are both in humility because that’s the kind of Savior he is. In his humility you are exalted. In Jesus’ death the unworthy are made worthy. Through Jesus’ cross you are made sufficient to stand before the Father today and on the Last Day.

Jesus is the stronger one, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. Jesus is stronger than John, stronger than the devil, stronger than your sin, stronger than even death itself. Your strength rests – not in you- but in Jesus’ weakness and suffering for you. Just as your beginning is found in his death and resurrection for you.

Jesus’ advent is a new beginning for you. It all begins in Baptism.

I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

Baptism is your beginning.

Holy Baptism is your entrance into the Promised Land. Holy Baptism is the Advent of the Triune God upon you, the Holy Spirit enters in. Holy Baptism washes you not just 7 times, but 7 x 70: you are cleansed of the leprosy of sin. Jesus leads you through the waters in a new exodus. Sin and death are drowned. Life in Christ washes over you. You are adopted, brought home. Your exile is over. The Lamb of God is your safe harbor. You have a clean conscience. A new, and pure heart. All of that wilderness dust is washed away. You are bathed in forgiveness. You are a new creation. A new birth from above. A new spirit. New life in Christ, this Advent, and at Jesus final advent.

Jesus’ Advent is about beginnings.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.