Saturday, December 10, 2016

Advent 3

Advent 3
December 11, 2016
Matthew 11:2-11 “What do you expect this Christmas?”

The Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ Brings True Rejoicing, Even Under the Cross

Reflection on the readings for the Day
Sometimes life requires the astonishing patience of Job. Like him, we are to rejoice in the midst of affliction, be grounded in repentance under the cross of Christ and hope relentlessly in His resurrection, that we might see “the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful” (James 5:11). Therefore, in the promise of the Gospel, “be patient” and “establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand” (James 5:8). Like John the Baptist, whatever your own kind of prison or suffering may be, call upon Jesus and receive the strength of His Word from those He sends to you. For as “the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up” (Matthew 11:5), so is the Good News of Jesus preached to you also. He comes and restores the fortunes of Zion, His holy Church, so that “sorrow and sighing shall flee away” (Is. 35:10).

Hymn of the day: LSB #345 “Hark a Thrilling voice is sounding

Collect for the Day: Lord Jesus Christ, we implore You to hear our prayers and to lighten the darkness of our hearts by Your gracious visitation, for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

For what are you waiting? Advent is a time of preparation and expectation. Yet many will miss the greatest expectation and thus celebrate a hollow Christmas because they do not know what they are really waiting for.  What do you expect this Christmas?  Let’s examine John’s own expectations with respect to confusion, clarification and confession.

1.       Confusion over Jesus’ Mission.

A.      Many in Jesus’ day had the wrong ideas. They were seeking a conquering king. They were expecting one who would rule their world and provide for them anything lacking. They were seeking release from the prison of oppression, cruelty, and tyranny.

B.      Even John himself may have had his misgivings.

1.       Here he was languishing in prison. His “best life now” was not very wonderful. Release from the prison had not happened. In fact, it would NOT happen. John would remain in prison until his life would end by execution at the hands of wicked King Herod at the demand of Herodias his mistress.
2.       Beware of such false hope. Circumstances do not dictate strength of faith.  Says St. Paul, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.” [1]

C.      Many today misunderstand the coming of Christ and thus the very essence of Christmas as well.

1         They have their own ideas and misconceptions without even hearing Jesus’ own words. They interpret life according to their own experience. They look for a Savior who will come to fix whatever happens to be their most pressing need now.                  

If God does not act according to their expectations, He is deemed irrelevant.  In this season of Advent, we hear the warnings of expected persecution. But in what form will sufferings come? Do not be surprised if oppression comes not at the edge of a sword but in more subtle ways – in being ostracized, ignored, excluded and dismissed. When people claim, “Jesus is just alright with me” what the really mean to say - Jesus is unimportant and unnecessary.

2         People hear Jesus’ words. But they stumble on the call to humbly confess that we all are “poor in spirit.”  That is why you have come today. Confessing your sin. Clinging to the Father’s promises of forgiveness, life, salvation.

2.       Clarification of Jesus’ True Messianic Mission.

A.      Jesus’ life and works bear witness to His grace and power over life and death. Jesus said, “I have come that they might have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10) But what is an abundant life? And how is it lived? Is Jesus giving us just one more burden to bear? Just one more responsibility? Is He giving us one more thing to fail? Hardly. Remember John. Languishing in prison. Circumstances do not dictate strength of faith. Christ makes no mention of length of days, health, prosperity, family, or occupation. What you do does not define who you are. Neither wealth nor poverty is a sure indication of your standing with God.

Consider Solomon. He had all the material blessings available to him yet found it all to be meaningless. (Ecclesiastes 5:10-15) Paul found himself destitute but was gladdened because His focus was on Christ.  Paul found contentment. He did not find it despite his circumstances but because of them. He did not focus on a God who will rescue me but a God who is glorified in weakness and suffering. Personal circumstances were irrelevant. He was an apostle of the Suffering One. The crucified and risen Savior. That is why John, in the midst of his personal prison sends his hearers to Jesus.  Whatever your own kind of prison or suffering may be, call upon Jesus and receive the strength of His Word from those He sends to you.
B.      Jesus answers them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see.” Jesus’ mission is to “evangelize” the poor.  He brings the Good News of forgiveness and life.  Jesus explains, “The blind receive their sight. The lame walk. The lepers are cleansed. The deaf hear. The dead are raise. The poor are evangelized with the preaching of the good news.” Because of Jesus. You are raised up. You are cleansed. Healed. And have good news proclaimed to you. And you are blessed. Because you are not scandalized or offended by Christ. The scandal is whom Jesus will associate. He will associate with the poor, the lowly, the sick, the imprisoned, the weak.    

C.      His kingdom is the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. Jesus is the prophetic Word made sure. John prepares His way. John is he of whom it is written, “Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you.”

3.       Confession That Jesus Is Also Our Coming One.

A.       Many today misunderstand and perhaps expect the wrong things of our coming King. He came in meekness. His messenger is imprisoned. Silenced. Executed. His birth is announced to shepherds. His followers are common folk. “But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong. God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are.” – 1 Corinthians 1: 27-28

B.      Consider your calling. Not many of you were wise according to worldly standards.  Not many of you were powerful. Not many of you were of noble birth…you, “poor in spirit,” receive this Good News that Christ, a Savior, is born.

C.      This message of the kingdom continues to come whenever you confess your spiritual poverty and hear, repeatedly, the daily message of forgiveness and life in Christ.

D.      Thus, you live in “great expectation” – now in Advent as you prepare for the true joy of Christmas; daily in confession and forgiveness; and finally, when your coming One comes again in glory.

The only hope for us “poor miserable sinners,” comes as a baby, wrapped in rags, lying in a manger. In Baptism, His name is placed upon you. As we have witnessed this morning in the lives of Kyra and Karter.  With Jesus name comes everything that Jesus did for you. He lived a perfect life. It is given to you. He died for sin. His death is given to you. That’s how it happens. In His death on the cross, Jesus dies for you. As He is raised, you too shall rise.  

Words – 1,350
Passive Sentences –9 %
Readability –74.5%
Reading Level –5.4  

[1] 2 Corinthians 4:8-10

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