Todd A. Peperkorn, STM
Messiah Lutheran Church
Advent 4 (Dec. 19, 2010 rev. from 2003)
TITLE: “Losing the Cares of the Season in the Blood of Jesus”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for today is from John chapter 1, Prepare the way of the Lord, and also the words from our Epistle: Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
This is hardly the time of year for us to be talking about letting go of anxiousness. There is more anxiety this month than the other eleven months of the year combined. Don’t you ever wonder why that is? What is it about the way we celebrate and remember our Lord’s birth that makes it so that we hardly have time to sit down, far less meditate and reflect upon the Word of God that was made flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary?
And yet here it is. These two messages from God’s Word, side by side: Prepare the way of the Lord and don’t be anxious.
So let’s do a little bit of self-examination according to the Word of God right now. What is it about your preparation for the coming of the Messiah which makes you anxious? In other words, how do you prepare for Christmas? What does it mean to prepare for Christmas?
What it means for the world is decorating the house, making cookies, buying lots of presents, eating, drinking, maybe caroling, being with family, and the like. Church, I suppose, might fit in there somewhere. And, as we talked about last week, everything that can go wrong will go wrong in the month of December.
Now I’m going to tell you something that is very important and yet may offend your sensibilities a little bit, but in keeping with John the Baptist it seems both appropriate and necessary. The Lord doesn’t care what your house looks like on Christmas. He doesn’t care how nice your presents are or what the tree looks like. He doesn’t care what you have for Christmas dinner or whether Aunt Thelmalou is going to make it from up north this year. That is not what the Lord means when he says prepare. Well, I should back up a little bit. It’s not that He doesn’t care. He cares very much. But that’s not what he means when he says to prepare for Christmas.
What He means when he says prepare is repent. Repent of believing that you have everything under control. Repent of believing that Christmas is all about you and all about your traditions and niceties which seem so very important at the time. Repent, for if these things distract you from the real point of Christmas, then they do not serve you and your family, they have enslaved you by pulling your attention away from Jesus and His work for you.
Is that possible? Is it possible in this most holy of seasons that in the midst of all of the hustle and bustle and silver bells and cockleshells that we might actually forget about Jesus? It certainly seems that way. Maybe you read the article in the paper this past week about the public school here in town that forgot to put any Christmas music in their holiday concert. The answer, of course, was that in the midst of Kwanza and Hannukah and all of the other really important holidays, well, it seems like they just forgot.
Now it’s easy to poke fun at others, but John the Baptist preaches to you today, not them. We shouldn’t expect the world to understand the Gospel. But John asks you the question today, have you prepared your heart for the coming of the Righteous One? Have you reflected on why Jesus had to come to earth as a little baby? Do you know why He came? He came to die. That’s it. It is your sins that caused Him to come down and die. That is something worth reflecting on.
This gets us a long way toward letting go of the anxiousness of the season that the devil and the world try to thrust upon us. It is his goal to see to it that all of the “stuff” that makes your life crazy and stressed and hard to deal with will draw your eye away from the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
So enough talking about you. Let’s talk about Jesus. For that is what the season is really about, isn’t it? In fact, that is exactly how Paul understands this whole question of rejoicing and anxiousness. Remember Paul’s words again from our Epistle reading: Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God
Paul calls on you to rejoice this season and be gentle toward everyone you meet. Why? Because Santa is watching? Hardly. Paul calls on you to rejoice because the Lord is at hand. The Lord is at hand. He is waiting at the door. Right around the corner. He is nearby. He is so near, in fact, that he is in your ears by His Word and in your mouth by His Sacrament. That is how close the Lord is. And that is what Advent and Christmas are all about. Jesus. For He comes down mightily to save you.
So think of it this way. The Almighty Lord and King of the Universe is just about to rain down His salvation from heaven in the form of his only begotten Son. The He is coming down for you, and only for you. That is the message of the preacher, John the Baptist. Right after our Gospel reading for this morning, John points to Jesus and says behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, as our choir sang so beautifully a few minutes ago. He is the very Lamb of God, who takes away all your sins. And if your sins are gone, then what is there to be anxious about? If God will come down to earth to die for your sins, then I believe that he will take care of whatever it is that causes you worry and anxiousness.
Jesus is coming soon, dear Christians. He is coming soon for you. Cast aside all of your troubles and worry that this and every season seem to bring on. Cast them away! For in the light of His eternal love, they are but a gentle snowfall on a midwinter’s day. Jesus is coming. Let us pray:
Stir up your power, O Lord, we implore You, and come among us, that by Your grace whatever is hindered by our sins may yet be speedily accomplished through Your mercy and satisfaction; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
And now the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith unto life everlasting. Amen.