Advent 4 (Rorate Coeli)
Audio
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Delivered By
Pr. Lovett
Delivered On
December 23, 2012
Central Passage
John 1:19-28
Description

 

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

 

John the Baptist’s preaching is marvelous. He doesn’t mince words. He says that he is not the Christ but the Christ is among the people, even though they do not know Him. And He points to Jesus and boldly and loudly proclaims, “Behold, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.” John is the model preacher, the prototype of all ministers of the Gospel, and of all those who have opportunity to bear witness to Jesus. John answers all their questions by saying that there is One who comes after Him who is greater than him and who is the One for whom the world waits.

In a word, John is the template and model of all preaching, whether in a pulpit or in a living room or in the fields. To deny that we are anything and to point to the One who is everything. For preaching is not a talk about theology or a discussion about God. That’s academia and has it’s right and proper place. But true preaching takes our eyes off ourselves as when John said plainly that he was not the Christ or Elijah or the Prophet, and points to Jesus who is greater than us and who is Himself the peace of God that passes all understanding.

But how does one point to Christ? Where is He that we might point others to Him? It seems that John got the easier task than we. He was able to point to a concrete man in a concrete place at a specific time. He could make the way of the Lord straight, clearing out all misconceptions and false Christs, by pointing straight at the Son of Mary and saying, “There, that man is the Christ. He is the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. There He is, follow Him.”

We seem to be left with the harder task of trying to convince people to believe on the One to whom John pointed, without being able to point to Him ourselves. We meet unbelievers and lapsed Christians and guilt-ridden sinners and it seems the best we can offer them is that God loves them and Jesus died for them. The unbeliever scoffs because he knows what sort of people we Christians really are; sinners. The lapsed Christian says, “Yeah, I know,” and goes on his merry way thinking all is well, when in truth the devil has him hard and fast. And the guilt-ridden sinner says, “Thank you,” and wants more, but we seem to have no more to give. The best we seem to offer is to tell the new Christian to read this book, attend this class, use this devotional, hang out with this group, go to this coffee house, listen to this music, and so on and so forth.  So that they are full of things to do and see, full of ideas about God and Jesus, but when someone asks them who and where the Christ is, they too don’t know where to point and they find that they’re not sure where He is either.

At this point the devil dances the jig and loads another pile of books, TV preachers, sermon series, and so forth on our heads and says, “Here, find the Christ in here!” so that we all have our own paths and routes to God and no one can help anyone. Or else he says, “Don’t you know, Jesus is in your heart, don’t worry about it, you have Him with you.” So the weak Christian goes looking for Jesus in pop-Christian culture, thinking that he’s following Jesus when he looks and acts like the popular Christians. And the self-secure Christian thinks no more on Christ or God because he reasons that Jesus is in his heart and that’s all there is to it. And the unbeliever? He shakes his head at all this and thinks to himself, “What fools. Those Christians are running around all over the place looking for the One they call Lord and Master, yet none of them seem to have found Him or know where He is.”

What beauty and clarity, then, to have our Lord say that where two or three are gathered in His name, there He is among them.

In truth, we have it easier than John, easier than all those who walked the earth with Jesus. We don’t have to know what Jesus looks like to find Him. And we always know where He is staying for sinners and the world to find Him and follow after Him. He is where His gospel is preached and His sacraments administered. It is through His church, through His congregations that He reveals Himself to the world and dwells over the whole earth, reigning in peace that passes all understanding.

We point the unbeliever to the gathering of the Lord, saying, Here is Jesus. Don’t go looking for Him in history or in apologetics or in reason and legend. For there you will learn about Him, but you will not meet Him. Here is where you will meet Him.

We point the lapsed Christian to the gathering of the Lord and say, “Brother, it is true that God dwells with you and hears your prayers wherever you may be, but it is also true that our Lord and Master beckons us to come and hear Him and receive His blessing and gather to Him.”

We point the troubled sinner to the gathering of Christ, and say, here He is; here is the Christ who died for you and shed His blood for you and who forgives you and welcomes you into His Father’s kingdom. Hear His holy absolution and receive His blessing, for He is the Lord and He sits and eats with sinners.” Here you meet the Christ and see Him with your ears.

The way of the Lord is straighten and the path made smooth. The mountains have been leveled and the valleys have been raised so that there is nothing between you and Jesus, between you and the Christ of God who has taken away the sins of the world and reigns in peace and majesty, welcoming sinners and baptizing them with His Spirit that you might be called the sons of God.

In Nomine Iesu
+ Amen +