Summary: Preparing for the season of Advent

2nd Sunday in Advent

December 9, 2001

Sermon Text: Matthew 3:1-12

Listen to the Advent Voice of John

1. Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near

2. Produce fruit in keeping with repentance

Matthew 3:1-12 In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea 2 and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” 3 This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’” 4 John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. 5 People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. 6 Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. 7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 10 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. 11 “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

The phone rings. You pick it up and say "Hello" and on the other end of the line, you hear somebody say, "Hey! How are you doing?" Instantly you know exactly who it is and you begin chatting away the time. How did you know who it was? You recognized their voice! There are certain people whose voice we know so well that as soon as we hear their voice on the phone, hear their voice cheering on the team, or even hear their voice in a crowded room we know exactly who it is because we recognize their voice. But in order for us to get to the point where we can recognize someone simply by hearing their voice at least one of two things needs to occur. Either there needs to be something unique about their voice or we need to be very familiar with that person.

Today, my friends, as you and I continue to prepare our hearts and our lives during this Advent season, we once again come into contact with the voice of someone who is uniquely associated with this particular season of the year. That individual’s name is John the Baptizer. This morning I would like us to study these familiar words of Matthew chapter three by contemplating the theme: Listen, to the Advent voice of John, Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near and produce fruit in keeping with repentance.

John the Baptizer is perhaps one of the best-known characters in Bible history. We know him as the babe who leaped in his mother’s womb when Mary came to visit. We know him as the forerunner of Christ whom God set aside to prepare the way for Jesus’ coming. But most of all we remember John because of the message that he preached in the desert of Judea. "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." If ever there were a message and a messenger clearly identifiable with each other, it is John the Baptizer and the call to repentance. There were, of course, a number of things that set John apart from the other religious leaders of his day and age. Scripture describes him as, a man whose “clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey.” But the voice of John ringing out in the desert, calling people to repent of their sins is by far the most striking.

John’s title was the Baptizer but first and foremost he was a prophet of God. And as a prophet he came to God’s people proclaiming God’s word. Telling the people to prepare for the advent of the messiah. His message – Repent!

The message to repent had become a familiar theme for God’s people. Throughout their history the children of Israel had led lives that required God to send one of his prophets to call his people to repentance. In the days of the Judges, the people would sin against God. God would call the people to repentance by allowing them to be oppressed and when they cried out to him for deliverance, he would send a deliverer to rescue them.

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