Summary: The confused world does not understand the meaning of the coming, the Advent of Christ into this world. In its confusion, the world approaches Christmas with out repentance and preparation necessary to see the Christ and receive his blessings. Christian
John the Baptist the Lord’s Messenger - Matt 11__2-15 Advent3
Sun, Dec 2003
Gospel: Matt 11:2-15
"Behold, I Send My Messenger before your face." The Greek word translated here as messenger is "angelos," that is, "angel."
Normally our English translations render this word as angel when speaking of a messenger that has no flesh, i.e. a heavenly spirit, and translates as "messenger" when speaking of a human being. The angels speak the message of repentance and glad tidings of great joy through the forgiveness of sins. The human messengers are preachers, bishops, evangelists, pastors and persons such as John the Baptist.
ADVENT marks the beginning of a new year of grace in the life of the Christian Church. God’s chosen messengers are to preach and teach everything our Lord has commanded [Matthew 28:19] -- from the repentance of Advent to the joy of Christmas that is Christ’s entry into this world in the flesh for you and me!
On the first Sunday in ADVENT for century upon century the Church has read and pondered the message of the prophet Zechariah, foretelling our Lord’s entrance into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Then we get two weeks of John the Baptist, before we finally get a Gospel text that has any apparent connection at all to Christmas.
Palm Sunday!? At the start of ADVENT?
It never fails to strike as strange For those who forget that it is ADVENT, and not Christmas, it never fails to appear odd, even wrong somehow --
1) that the Church observes this thing called ADVENT, while the world frenetically Steamrolls its way through December;
2) that the liturgical color adorning the sanctuary and hanging from the neck of the pastor is purple (or maybe blue), not red and green;
3) that the worship service is filled with hymns written in minor keys that sing words about repentance and preparation rather than the bright major keys of festive Christmas carols.
The world sees no need for ADVENT - for repentance and preparation. Halloween is over, this is the time, so the TV tells us, to buy Christmas stuff whether we need it or not.
This is also true of the world that lives inside our hearts. It wants to leapfrog over ADVENT and plunge right into the joy of angels and shepherds and Wisemen. And the sinner in us is eager to jump right in with them.
But the Church in her wisdom says "no," wait a minute. We are not to be conformed to the world’s view of Christmas, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds [Romans 12:2] that is worked through the power of the Holy Spirit that teaches us everything that our Lord has commanded [Matthew 28:20] through the means of grace He has given and entrusted to the Church and her called servants of the Word. As Christ’s bride, the Church says "no," because if the joy of Christmas is going to be all that God intends it to be for His people, it needs to be received in hearts that are stilled and quiet, in hearts that have come to know the sorrow of sin and long to be freed from it.
So we pray in the Collect on the First Sunday in ADVENT, "Almighty God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal . . . .” We pray that this Christmas Christ Himself, will be received in hearts that understand His three-fold coming and can pray with fervor: "Come, Lord Jesus!" in the full meaning, and certain hope of that prayer.
Only such hearts are prepared to receive the fullness of the joy that lies in the Christmas Feast - a joy far brighter than tinsel and infinitely more satisfying than an endless round of parties and gluttony.
Yes, we see many beautiful and appealing things with our eyes at this time of year. But in Christ’s church, you will also see things that offend the Old Adam in you. All of us is bedazzled and enticed by the things that appeal to the flesh, to our emotions, to our desire to get along with and be accepted by the world out there. The scene of a crude manger, in a dirty stall with the teen-age mother of our Lord, who conceived out of wedlock offends our senses and sensibilities so much that we make the scene sparkle pristinely for the decoration of our living rooms and sanctuaries.