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Summary: This sermon focuses on John's message of repentance. John answers the question - What do we do after we have repented and while we wait for the coming of the Messiah (First for them - Second for us)? John gives us some practical advice.

Scripture: Zephaniah 3:14-20; Luke 3:7-18

Theme: 3rd Sunday of Advent - Prepare the Way

Title: The Messiah Is Coming - What Do We Do?

This sermon focuses on John's message of repentance. What do we do after we have repented and while we wait for the coming of the Messiah (First for them - Second for us)? John gives us some practical advice.

INTRO:

Grace and peace from God our Father and from Jesus Christ our Savior and LORD!

Welcome to the 3rd Sunday of Advent.

We have already enjoyed looking at Advent as the Season of Hope and the Season of Peace. We know that we can have Hope in Jesus Christ and Hope in the living the Life of Holiness. We know that we can have Peace in the sense that as God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit refine our hearts and lives we find ourselves more at peace with Our Lord, with ourselves, others and with our world.

Today, our Gospel passage takes us to the time of John the Baptist. John is busy preaching. His goal is for people to repent of their sins, experience God's saving grace and live a holy life. He is proclaiming that the door of repentance is open for all who want to enter in and receive God's grace and mercy. He is busy proclaiming the message of the Kingdom of Heaven and the coming of the Messiah. John is determined to do his best to help people be ready to meet the Messiah - the Savior of the World.

This is his goal as God's prophet. He is calling people back to the LORD. He is calling those who have never heard the message of salvation to the LORD. John's message is exclusive. He is calling out to all those who are willing to come and hear the Good News whether they are Jews or Gentiles.

However, John is much more than a measly screaming evangelist. John does not seek to create an environment of fear and/or judgment. John is not interested in creating an atmosphere of guilt and remorse and nothing more. John in interested in people experiencing a transformation that not only transforms their lives but the way that they relate to others. John wants them to experience what it means to be a genuine human being reflecting God's Glory and Honor. John wants them to experience what it means to live out a life of holiness in this world.

Bible scholar and teacher N. T. Wright shares with us a little insight on this passage. Listen to his words this morning:

"A cartoon shows a sceptic (skeptic) shouting up to the heavens, 'God! If you're up there, tell us what we should do!'

Back comes a voice, 'Feed the hungry, house the homeless, establish justice.'

The sceptic (skeptic) looks alarmed. 'Just testing,' he says,

'Me too,' replies the voice.'" (Luke For Everyone - pg. 35).

We see this morning John's message brought great comfort and yet was somewhat distressing. Comfort in the fact that his audience knew that when the Messiah came He would bring about salvation and justice. The Messiah would set all things right. Distressing in the aspect that John says that the Messiah will also use a farmer's fork to separate the wheat from the chaff. The Messiah would then use the fire to burn up all that He deemed unworthy and worthless.

That picture of burning up the chaff was not exactly the picture that the ancient Israelites wanted to envision and it is not quite the picture that we want to see when we think of the birth of Jesus or the idea of Jesus being Our Messiah, Savior and LORD. The part about salvation is music to our ears but the aspect of Jesus using a farmer's fork to separate the wheat from the chaff and then consume that which is bad doesn't quite give us the warm fuzzes that we desire this time of year.

Jesus as a mere baby laying in the manger makes a great Hallmark picture and movie. Jesus holding a farmer's fork along with a torch on fire is a little daunting. Jesus as Savior is warm and comforting. Jesus as judge can be a little unnerving depending on what His verdict is for our lives. And yet, the Bible tells us that Jesus the Messiah is both - Savior and Judge.

One of the great things about John's message ( and the message of the whole Bible) is that it focuses both on evangelism and holiness. John proclaims a genuine repentance that leads to a spiritual fruit bearing life.

For John repentance meant much more that to feel remorse about something or to just attend confession with no hope of real change. John believed in a repentance that radically altered one's direction and life. A repentance that led to a changed heart and a changed life. A repentance that would bleed over to our jobs, to our lives in general and to all the people that we connect with on a daily basis.

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