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.

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