Monday, December 14, 2015

Sermon for Third Sunday in Advent: "Are You the One?"

+ 3rd Sunday in Advent – December 13th, 2015 +
Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Series C: Zephaniah 3:14-20; Philippians 4:4-7; Luke 7:18-35

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

Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?

John sends his disciples to ask Jesus this question as he sits in Herod’s dungeon. John was sent by God to proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins, but prison will not silence this preacher. Though John is held captive, he is free. Though John sits in darkness, he points us to Christ, the Light of the world.

If this were a Hollywood movie, we’d expect John’s story to have a different ending.  Perhaps a prison break, Great Escape style. Or some miraculous pyrotechnics as angels and glory of the Lord burst into his cell, smash the walls, and then out walks John, not a hair on his camel clothing singed. But this is no Disney movie.

John knows that the kingdom of God comes through the cross. Repentance. Preparation. Hope. Longing. Expectation. Joy. All of it comes through the cross. John’s question is finally answered on Good Friday. There is no other One. Jesus is the one who came for John, for his disciples, and for you. In Jesus’ death and resurrection we behold the one who is to come.

Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another? No doubt John’s disciples wanted to know the answer to this question too. John baptized them, proclaimed to them that the kingdom of God was near; they listened to his preaching: behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. They heard John call the Pharisees a brood of Vipers. And then they saw John carried off to prison for calling Herod to repentance. 

Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?
Perhaps you’ve wrestled with that question in your own mind and heart as you sit in the dark dungeon of doubt, fear, and despair. Maybe you’re even pondering that question this morning, as we’ve witnessed the recent terror in San Bernardino, Paris, and around the world as our brothers and sisters in Christ are martyred every day.

And like John, we find ourselves surrounded by darkness even as we rejoice in the light and joy of Jesus’ Advent. For many families, this isn’t the hap-happiest season of all: illness, grief, sorrow. Close friends and family members have died this year or in the past – wounds are fresh around the holidays. The darkness of financial and economic stress looms over us: unemployment, taking care of the family, making rent – don’t even mention the Christmas shopping. There’s the darkness of the unknown: what does the coming new year hold for us? Will I recover? Will we have food? Will we receive new members and share the Gospel? Will we be a light to our community?

And then there’s the darkness of sin inside each of us, hounding us day and night. We wrestle with our guilt, shame, and our many sins, which we fight hard to keep locked away in our own dungeons, out of sight, out of mind – like John.

Whatever it is that holds you captive this Advent season, whatever prison you find yourself in, whatever clouds of darkness overshadow you, and whenever you find yourself asking the same question John asked: Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?
Jesus has the same confident, reassuring, and consoling answer for John and for you: “YES! I AM.”

Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them.  And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.

You have the Good News. Jesus is your King. Born for you to ascend to his throne of the cross. The kingdom of God comes through Christ Crucified, for John and for you.

John wasn’t the only one to spend some time in prison. Jesus spent three days imprisoned behind bars of earth and stone, only to burst through them on the third day. Jesus was swallowed up by darkness on Good Friday, but death was swallowed up in radiant victory.

And you’re not alone in the darkness either. Your doubt, sin, and death are no match for Jesus. You have the Light of the World, a light in the dark places when all other lights go out. You have Jesus’ cross and resurrection inscribed upon your forehead and heart; you are washed, cleansed, and are now a child of the light. You have the word of absolution that casts out your sin, doubt, and despair: be of good cheer, your sins are forgiven! You have Jesus’ body and blood that sets you free from sin, death, and darkness.

You have the promise that no matter how bad or ugly things get in the world, Jesus declares, “Fear not, I have overcome the world” for you.

You have the confidence that no matter how heavy our guilt and shame are, Christ has born that burden for you. He has made all your sorrows, disease, guilt, sin, and shame – even your death – his own. Satan’s accusations are empty and hollow. You are free.

You have the joy that even the lids of our grave are no match for Jesus who died and rose to give us life and light. You receive all this as inheritance in Christ’s kingdom that comes through his cross.

This is our joy in Advent, even if you don’t have the “joy, joy, joy, joy” down in your heart on this Sunday called Gaudete. You may feel weak and powerless against the powers and principalities of this world. It may appear that the Herods of this world may have the upper hand.

Do not fear. Jesus is the One…for John and for you. The joyous kingdom of God is hidden for you in the weakness of a Virgin’s womb, the manger, the cross, the water, the Word, the bread and wine, so that even in the sorrows of this life, Jesus is with you just as he was with John.  

Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another? YES! Jesus is the one. Jesus came for John. Jesus came, comes, and will come again to save you.

Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion;
    shout, O Israel!
Rejoice and exult with all your heart,
    O daughter of Jerusalem!
The Lord has taken away the judgments against you;
    he has cleared away your enemies.
The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst;
    you shall never again fear evil.
On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem:
“Fear not, O Zion;
    let not your hands grow weak.
The Lord your God is in your midst,
    a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
    he will quiet you by his love.

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

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