Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sermon - Advent 3

John 1:6-8,19-28
Advent 3
December 14, 2008
“Pointing to Christ”

We all know it's not polite to point at people. Pointing means you're talking about them, and usually not to say something nice. So momma always said, “don't point”.

But every Advent, we have a visit from John the Baptist, whose primary role was as a pointer. He pointed, of course, to Jesus. He talked about, preached about, and prepared the way for Jesus. Even his baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins found its fullness in Jesus Christ.

Now John was a popular guy. The gospels tell us “all of Judea” went down to be baptized by him, and while that's certainly a figure of speech, some estimate as many as 250,000 responded to John's preaching. The Jewish leaders were threatened enough to send delegations to John, “who is this guy?” And Jesus himself heaped praise on John. “Among those born of women none is greater than John” You'd think it would all go to John's head.

But he was a humble man. His dress was simple – rough skins, not fine robes. His diet was meager – insects and wild honey, scavenged from his home in the wilderness. His life was a living sermon of sorts.

But more than that, John knew his place. Great as he was, he was still unworthy. He was a sinner. His job was to point to someone greater, more powerful. “After me comes one more powerful than I, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to stoop down and untie” John preaches about someone else, talks about someone else, John points, not to himself, but to Jesus. And today in our text, he still points us to Jesus.

John didn't want to be a distraction. He very well could have been. The devil always wants us to take our eye off the ball, or rather, off our savior. And our sinful nature becomes a willing accomplice. That's why we see Christian holidays secularized. It's why we see Christian preachers turn into self-help gurus. It's why we see Christian people more worried about what they can do for God than what God has done for them in Christ. Anything to distract us from the one who sacrifices himself for our us, Jesus Christ.

John says, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”. Look! There's the one you should be looking to, not me! He's the one you should pay attention to. He is the lamb of God, the sacrifice for sin – for all sins – the sins of the world. He will lay down his life to save yours. Oh yes, I baptize, but my baptism is based on him, and derives from him. My preaching is to prepare HIS way. I need to be baptized by him, I'm not even worthy to undo his sandals.

So what about you, fellow Christians? Are you distracted, or are you beholding the lamb of God? Are you tempted to look somewhere else? What's got your attention? Is it your work? Is it your lack of work? Is it your responsibilities at home? Is it a family situation or a health problem? Are you caught up in the day-to-day so much that the Ancient of days is missing from the picture?

Or are you so content with yourself that you don't see the need for the lamb of God? Are your sins not such a big deal? To that, John would preach, “repent!”. For if you don't see your sins, you'll see no need for them to be taken away.

We are so often the ones to bemoan people who take the “Christ” out of Christmas, but in reality we do the same. We take the Christ out of everything, when we live like he doesn't exist, when we make other gods to follow and trust in them. We even foul up the celebration of his birth with our own forms of pollution – bringing our own sinful issues to bear, focusing on our selves and our wants and needs and priorities and NOT on our neighbors and certainly NOT on Jesus Christ.

Hebrews 12 tells us to, “fix our eyes on Jesus”, and that's good advice. That's faith language. In other words, trust in Jesus. Believe in him. Not just in general, but in specific. Trust in his suffering and death on the cross for your sins. Trust in his promises made to you in your baptism, and in his forgiveness offered to you at his table. Believe that he has done ALL the work of your salvation, and that it is finished, as he said. Don't fix your eyes on your own good works and your own victorious life and your own prideful purposes, but instead, fix your eyes on Jesus, who will bring his good work in you to completion.

Jesus was never distracted in his work for you. He kept the goal always before him. He had to be in his father's house. He was baptized to fulfill all righteousness. He was not derailed by the temptations of the evil one. He was not deterred by faithless men who refused to receive him. He set his face like flint toward Jerusalem. He submitted to arrest, injustice, mockery, torture, and execution. Not my will, but yours, O father. He would not be distracted.

But we are not Jesus. We need the reminders. We need to be pointed to him again and again. Even John became doubtful, when he was arrested, he sent his disciples to ask if Jesus really was the one. And Jesus said,

"Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them.

Open your eyes, and open your ears. What do you see? Jesus acting like the Messiah – because he is the Messiah. Jesus doing the miracles that are his calling card, but more importantly preaching the good news that is his purpose.

If even John the Baptist needed reminding, if even the pointer needed to be pointed again to Jesus, then so do we. Behold, look, see – the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, who takes away the sin of the world – your sin and mine. Focus on Jesus, your savior, and not on yourself or your sins. Fix your eyes on him, trust and believe in him, and live. That's how to keep the Christ in Christmas, and in every day – by faith.

In Jesus Name, Amen.

1 comment:

Rev. Jim Roemke said...

What's the Geico caveman doing in that river?