Sermon for Advent 3
December 17, 2017
John 1:6-8, 19-28
Pointing to Jesus
How do you describe your church to other people when you tell them about it? Do you tell them about the fantastic coffee hours? How we always have the greatest snacks, sometimes hearty enough to provide even lunch. Do you talk about how the members linger around as if they do not wish to leave, some more than an hour as they talk and have a good time? Do you tell them about the pride in our facilities? How we take good care of everything and are always looking for ways to improve? Do you tell them about the new pews and the beautiful paraments? Do you talk about the joy of hearing children fuss and fidget during the service? Perhaps you tell them about the VBS with the puppet shows and the fancy crafts? I suppose you could tell them about the missionaries, seminary students, and several mercy ministries that we have sponsored through the years. Perhaps you have mentioned the 500th anniversary of the Reformation and concert, speaker, and festival that we had. And don’t forget the wonderful service and luncheon we just had in celebration of Redeemer’s 55th anniversary. There is much you could tell others about Redeemer and your life with and among these brothers and sisters. But what purpose does any of it serve? Why would you bother to tell them all of those things if you don’t mention Jesus?
Do you describe your church as a place where Jesus makes Himself present in a miraculous way? Where, through the Word, He is revealed for more than knowledge sake but for faith that leads to life eternal? Do you tell them that the Savior of the world continues to humble Himself for the sake of those being saved as He gives Himself with bread and wine? Do you describe the wondrous blessing that occurs as the heavens are opened and the Holy Spirit descends upon even children as they a baptized and their sins are forgiven? Do you talk about the compassion of God, the manner in which Jesus knows our every sorrow and has experienced our every temptation, yet not sinning, bore the burden of our sins that we might be free from such consequences? Do you simply tell others that the God who made the universe, the God that became incarnate for our salvation, the God who continues to forgive your sins daily, meets you here and would like to meet them here as well? In short, do you tell them about all the things that we do or do you tell them about Jesus?
You see, that is the question that was posed to John. Who are you and why should we listen to you? Are you Elijah, the Prophet, the Messiah? Are you somebody important? What have you done and what are going to do? He didn’t say anything about his Levitical heritage or the angelic announcement of his miraculous birth. He didn’t have any of those temporal things that I mentioned that we have. His place of worship was in the open air out in the wilderness. His sumptuous meals consisted of locusts and wild honey. Likely every child that saw him cried out in fear over his rough appearance. He only pointed to the Scriptures that described his ministry as the one crying in the wilderness, “Make straight the way of the Lord,” and pointed to the one coming that is greater than he; the One to whom his entire life and ministry was to direct others to see and recognize. He called for repentance and directed his hearers to fear, love, and trust in God above all things and to look to the Savior who was among them.
John didn’t see anything special about what he was doing nor did he think of himself as anything more than a signpost pointing the way to the Christ. It was the One whose sandals he was not worthy to untie that would be the subject of his preaching. It would be that One that he wanted all the people to see and recognize. It was the One that would come after John that he wanted everybody to notice for it is that One that comes to save from death. It is that One would rescue from bondage and slavery to sin, that would bring liberty and freedom from oppression from the devil. The only thing that he wanted to tell people about was the subject of his preaching – Jesus Christ.
For what good is any of the other things if there is no Jesus who saves from sin. Great potlucks are of little matter if Jesus and His victory over death is not the purpose in gathering. John had no need of a public affairs or advertising department, his only concern was for the call of the people to repent and believe on Jesus. And it should be ours as well, both individually and corporately. Our invitation for others is not to see the beauty of the church building as much to see the beauty of the incarnate God who suffered, died, and was buried, but who also rose, ascended, and reigns. Our conversations may surround the things in which we are involved, but even more should point the way our Lord who has and still is involved in the lives of those who the Spirit calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies.
John knew his calling and it was to simply point to the One coming after himself; to point to Jesus. It is in the verse following our reading that we derive our canticle called the Agnus Dei, The Lamb of God, for in that verse, John sees Jesus and calls the people’s attention to Him – the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.
I’m going to ask you to do something uncomfortable. I want you to extend your arm and point to the crucifix on the wall and say, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” (repeat the request if necessary to get the congregation to point to Jesus)
He should be the subject of our thoughts and our conversations, the One who is our first and primary consideration in every conversation and action. It is to Jesus that we are to draw attention in all we do as a congregation and in everything proclaimed from pulpit and lectern. It is Jesus that we confess like John in our very lives lived before the world. It is to hold Him before the eyes of ourselves and others because it is in Him only that God is known and salvation is to be found.
John’s message was simple, “Repent of your deeds for they are not pure and look to the holy One who comes to save you. Put your trust in Jesus.” It is our message, first to receive and then to disperse. It is why we gather and why we direct others to gather with us, that each and every one may receive the forgiveness of their sins and life eternal with God.
In the name of Jesus. Amen