Summary: A sermon for the 2nd Sunday in Advent preached 12/6/2009 at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church, Audubon, Iowa. It is a revision of a sermon I preached in 2003 on the same text.
Well, here we are, today is the 2nd Sunday in Advent. We’re one week closer to the big day! Christmas! You can tell its closer! Maybe you thought that this morning as you entered the church, and you noticed that the Christmas trees are now up here in the chance,, wreaths are hung outside the main doors, you saw the nativity scene set up outside! Indeed, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas around here! We also lit another candle on the Advent wreath, so the countdown is on! Christmas has to be getting pretty close now! Things are starting to get pretty busy for a lot of us. Over the next couple of weeks or so, many of us have parties to attend, plans to make, goodies to bake, and it’s getting pretty close to the time of the year that college students have fall semester final exams to prepare for. In any case, each of these events involves some degree of preparation, and that’s the theme of the season of Advent. Preparing to celebrate Jesus’ coming into the world, both in his birth at Bethlehem those many years ago, and as we look ahead to His promised second coming.
Maybe by now, you’re starting to get a little bit anxious for Christmas to get here. Perhaps there is something you are looking forward to having under the tree this year. Or maybe it’s seeing someone you haven’t seen in a long time that you will be able to catch up with this Christmas. Maybe you’re looking forward to hearing that old familiar Christmas story that will be read once again during our Christmas Eve service. You just can’t wait for the baby Jesus to get here, and all the warm fuzzies that come along with it. That’s what Christmas is all about right? So what is the hold up you might ask? Maybe you expected to hear a part of that Christmas story here this morning, and instead, you hear about this odd fellow that came out of the wilderness named John the Baptist. That’s two weeks in a row now where we’ve seemed to have a Gospel reading that doesn’t quite seem to fit in with our expectations. Last Sunday, instead of a Christmas reading, you heard about Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, and we learned through that reading that the manger and the cross are connected. Today, you hear about this strange man, dressed in strange clothing, proclaiming a strange message in a strange place. So by now, maybe you’re asking yourself “who is this guy anyway, and what does he have to do with preparing for Christmas?” Although it’s fun to look forward to future events with hope, we still need to remember, we’re still in the season of Advent, Christmas isn’t quite here yet, and we still need to prepare for Jesus’ coming. That’s why today, we’re here to a look at the story of John the Baptist, and find out where he and the message he has to proclaim fit into our preparation for the coming of Christ into the world.
This past Wednesday evening, when we gathered for our first midweek Advent service, we heard the first part of the story of John the Baptist from Luke 1. We hear of the news the angel Gabriel brings to the old priest, Zechariah. Zechariah’s wife, Elizabeth, is well advanced in years, and has been barren. Gabriel tells Zechariah that Elizabeth will bear him a son, and he is to be named John, and he will be great in the sight of the Lord. Zechariah doubts the words of Gabriel, so this doubting priest is sentenced to silence, and is unable to speak until the boy is born. Zechariah eventually does speak again, when he brings this miracle son to the temple to be circumcised on the 8th day of the child’s life, and he is named John. It’s here the old priest gives us an idea of what his miracle child was destined to do, as we read in Luke 1:68-79 in one of the great songs of the gospels:
“Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, He has come to his people and redeemed them. He has raised up for us a mighty savior, born of the house of his servant David. Through his holy prophets he promised of old, that he would save us from our enemies, from the hands of all who hate us. He promised to show mercy to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant. This was the oath he swore to our father Abraham: to set us free from the hands of our enemies, free to worship him without fear, holy and righteous in his sight, all the days of our life.”
“You, my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare His way, to give his people knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins. In the tender compassion of our God, the dawn from on high shall break upon us to shine forth on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death and to guide our feet into the way of peace.” (Order of Morning Prayer, Lutheran Worship, p. 239-241, Lutheran Book of Worship, p. 134-136, Lutheran Service Book p. 238-240)