Summary: The sermon explores baptism in light of Jesus’ baptism. If Jesus needed to be baptized, what does this say about us? We sinners are called to repentence and baptism.
What’s Your REAL Birthday?
Baptism into the body of Christ
Stephen H. Becker, M.Div.
St. Peter’s Lutheran Church
2nd Sunday in Advent
December 9th, 2007
When is your BIRTH-day? I mean, your real birthday? No, I’m not talking about your D O B —your date-of-birth—like you find on your driver’s license, but instead, I’m talking about the day you were born into the body of Christ, the day you were born again. Do you know what I’m driving at here? Well, let me give you some more hints, my date of birth is September 20, 1965, according to my driver’s license, but my real birth-day is March 20, 1966. My certificate of live birth, signed by the doctor who delivered me at the hospital also says the earlier September 20th date, but I have another certificate, one that says I am truly born, (pause) born again, born into eternal life, that has the later date of March 20th, 1966 on it. And this certificate I’m talking about isn’t signed by a physician (pause)… it’s signed by a pastor. Do you know what I’m talking about now? Friends, my mother gave birth to me on September 20th 1965, but I was baptized at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church on Center Parkway, just about 8 miles from here in Sacramento, on March 20th, 1966; I was baptized into the body on Christ that day and born again, born into a new everlasting life, a new birth by water and the Spirit. Do you know your real birthday? If you don’t, I challenge you to find out your baptismal date and memorize it!
In the reading today from Matthew 3, the same reading, by the way, that millions of other Lutherans read today, we hear of how before Jesus, all John the Baptist could do is baptize with water. But soon there would be another, one much more powerful than John, who would baptize with the Holy Spirit. Of course, the advent of that Person is why we celebrate Christmas, and that Person Who baptizes us with the Holy Spirit is Jesus Christ, the Ultimate physician who delivers children of all ages, into a new, everlasting life. So let’s open with prayer…
For the parents in the room tonight, I’m sure you can relate to this—my kids have been excited about Christmas for weeks now. And of course, I keep reminding them about the real reason for the season: Jesus’ birth. That day, some 2,000 years ago, changed the world forever. As sinners, and as children of a world corrupted by sin, we know through our Scriptures that no sinner can enter the kingdom of God—heaven— because we are unclean, because we are unworthy, because we are unrighteous, because we are not like our righteous and perfect God. This is the Law, black and white. It’s God’s Law, it’s righteous, and it does not change. This Law is as much in effect today as it was on the day that Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit. But because of Jesus Christ, there is hope…there is forgiveness. Yes, we are still sinners. Yes, we still sin. We can’t help it because we are children of a fallen humanity. Yes, we can and should resist evil and sin; in fact, as believers in Jesus, we should fight the temptation to sin with every fiber of our being. But the point is, we’ve still sinned, and each one of us will—sooner or later—sin again. But because of Jesus Christ, our sins are forgiven through His blood. In the Gospel reading from Matthew, John the Baptist quotes the Old Testament prophet of Isaiah when he says, “A voice of one calling: ‘In the desert prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God.” Who is that voice calling in the desert? John the Baptist! Isn’t that amazing, the prophet Isaiah, who prophesied so clearly about Jesus, also prophesied about the coming of John the Baptist. And so what is John the Baptist saying there in the desert? He was preaching repentance for the forgiveness of sins. John knew that the promised Messiah of Israel, the Lamb of God who would come to take away the sins of the world, was at hand—was in the world, just as Scripture had been foretelling. John was preaching the message to repent. He was telling the people, yes, you are sinners, but God loves you so much that He is sending a Messiah to save you from yours sins. So stop sinning, and be sorry…repent… of your sins—and then watch what God is about to do in your life! By repenting of your sins and by being baptized, you are making, “A highway for our God.” Repenting of your sins, and being baptized is your highway, your expressway away from what your sins have earned you and takes you straight back into fellowship with God. The fact that John the Baptist is proclaiming this is very important. Consider these facts about John the Baptist: