Our theme this morning is PEACE…
but peace is not what comes to mind when I hear our Gospel this morning or of John the Baptizer.
John is an interesting, but significant and complex, character in Scripture.
John, according to the Gospel of Luke, is Jesus’ cousin, but that is not his significance in Advent. John serves as a bridge between the Advent emphasis on Jesus’ Second Coming AND the Advent focus on Jesus as the baby in a manger. In fact, the middle two Sundays in Advent shine a spotlight on him.
(Due to the Children’s Program next Sunday, we will have one opportunity to explore John).
John the Baptizer was a PREACHER.
His passionate, emotion-driven, fire and brimstone sermons attracted people into the wilderness from the surrounding towns. His message was simple: “Repent! Prepare the way for the Messiah who is to come”. Yet, his words to the religious elite this morning was “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come”.
Well, as my mama says, I am more of a teacher than a preacher. You will never find me on the street corner, holding a sign, preaching fire and brimstone, screaming “Repent, Sinners, for the end is near!”. Although you might see me offering a counter-argument.
John the Baptizer was a PROPHET.
He was tasked and responsibility was to prepare the way for and to point toward the Messiah.
On one hand, we all should strive to be prophets whose words and actions reflect God through HOPE, PEACE, JOY, and LOVE while seeking justice, speaking truth to corrupt power and authority, acting with compassion and mercy, while loving and serving people.
But, on the other hand, some people have an intense calling and gift to serve as a prophet.
John the Baptizer was a DISCIPLINARIAN.
Perhaps, this is the aspect I can most easily connect to John.
John understood that there are consequences for our words and actions, whether for better or for ill, and he held them accountable.
We should not support or tolerant poor behavior that discourages hope, disrupts peace, tramples joy, and hatefully extinguishing love, while engaging in injustice, profiting from corrupt power and authority, acting without compassion and mercy while being served by others.
May we hear John’s preaching to turn from our sin and poor behavior
in order to prepare the way for Jesus,
both as the baby in the manger AND the Second-Coming.
May we be prophetic, like John, reflecting God in word and deed
through HOPE, PEACE, JOY, and LOVE.
May we be disciplinarians, such as John, holding OURSELVES and others accountable
but with GRACE, MERCY, and COMPASSION as the guiding principles.
May we learn and grow
from John’s live, witness, and testimony.
Scriptures were Isaiah 11:1-10 and Matthew 3:1-12.
Originally preached on 9 Dec. 2019 at Trinity Lutheran Church (Union City, IN).