Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Third Sunday in Advent

Third Sunday in Advent (A)
December 12, 2010
Text: Matt. 11:2-15

“Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (Matt. 11:3; ESV). John’s question, and that of his disciples, can be turned back upon us. Is Jesus the Messiah, the Savior you’re looking for, or are you searching for another? Are you perhaps searching for something or someone else to fill you, to satisfy you, to save you? Christmas has this way of exposing our idols, our false gods, the true desires of our hearts. Every year we make Christmas lists. We think that those things listed will finally complete us. If I only had this or that thing, then I would finally be happy, whole, satisfied. But you know how it really is. Even if you get everything on your list this Christmas, you will have another list next year. Because you still will not feel complete. There will still be unfilled holes in your life, and you will seek to fill them with more and more stuff. We all have unscratchable itches and bottomless pits in our hearts. We all covet, which means that we endlessly search for fulfillment in things. And in people. In fact, family and friends and other people can become our greatest idols. Christmas has a way of exposing this, as well. We strive in vain for the pipe dream of Clark W. Griswold, the “fun, old-fashioned family Christmas,” the perfect, nostalgic, Christmas by the fire side, where everyone gets along, no one really cares what presents they receive because they’re just happy to be together, the food is immaculate, the tree is brightly trimmed, and everyone has a special glow in their hearts. But of course, it never really happens. And we fall to pieces along with our false religion and our Jesus-less Christmas.

Repent. If that is your ideal, you’re missing both the Christ and His Mass in Christmas. Jesus is not about colorful lights and gift lists, nor even the special glow of our hearts. Those things will never satisfy. They will convince you that they can satisfy you year after year. But these are the vain deceptions of the devil. What you need for Christmas, what you need for everyday, is Jesus. He is the gift God promised from of old, to our first parents the very day they fell into sin and death. He is the Savoir come to crush the serpent’s head. He is the Crucified, the death of death and the author of life, the risen One, the firstborn from the dead. He is the cure for your sin and death. He suffered and died for your sins, that you might be forgiven and have eternal life, and He is risen, and comes to you with His Word and Spirit in Baptism and preaching and in the Supper. It is not by accident that the holiday is called Christmas, Christ-Mass! The ideal Christmas is not gathered around the tree with family opening their presents. That is fine, in and of itself, but it is idolatrous if you think that is what Christmas is about. The ideal Christmas is gathered around the altar with the Christian family receiving THE Gift, Jesus Christ Himself, in His true body and blood, for the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.

And if what I am saying offends you, that is only because your idolatry has been painfully exposed. You are not offended at me, but at Christ. You are searching for another. Christ just isn’t doing it for you. Or at least that is what the devil has convinced your sinful flesh to believe. You are not alone. There is not a soul in this building this morning who is not guilty of this idolatry. But the time for excuses is over. Jesus is coming again. He is coming to judge the living and the dead. The answer to our idolatry is not to make excuses, but to repent, to confess our sins, to hear again the holy absolution, the forgiveness of sins, and to cling to that promise of Jesus Christ for all it is worth. And it is worth everything. It is our eternal lifeline. Repent and look to Jesus. He is the only One who can fill you. He is the only One who can make you whole. He is the only One who can save you.

For making whole and saving are what Jesus is all about. He is the One who strengthens the weak hands and makes firm the feeble knees. He is the One who stills the anxious heart (Is. 35:3-4). He gives sight to the blind. He makes the lame to walk. He cleanses lepers, opens the ears of the deaf, and raises the dead to life. And what is the greatest miracle (we miss this every time, because we’re too enamored with the spectacular physical miracles)… what is the greatest miracle is that the Good News, the Gospel, is preached to the poor (Matt. 11:5). Who are the poor? It is not just those who have little or no money. It is every one of us who has that gaping hole in our hearts that we so long to fill with anything and everything, with anyone and everyone. That hole is your poverty. It leaves you standing before God naked and exposed, with absolutely nothing to bring to the table (except for sin), with no righteousness of your own, with no ability to help or save yourself. And here is the Good News, the Gospel: Jesus has come to fill your emptiness. Jesus alone can fill it. And here He is, now, today, in this place, to fill it, to fill you, with Himself. He’s really present. Bodily. He’s speaking to you now in His Word. In a few moments He will give you a foretaste of the Christ-Mass by placing His very real, incarnate body on your tongues and pouring His very real, incarnate blood down your throats. Nothing else can fill you. This is the real thing today. Away with the idols. Is Jesus the One, or are you looking for another? Look no longer. He is here in the flesh. Only the poor can receive Him. “And blessed is the one who is not offended by me” says Jesus (v. 6). Blessed is the one who doesn’t ask, “Really, is that all You have to offer, Lord? More words from the preacher and just another Communion?” If that is your attitude, you cannot be filled by Jesus, for you have no idea of your poverty. Blessed rather is the one who clings to those words as the very Word of Life, and who hungers and thirsts for that Communion of the holy body and blood of Christ as the medicine of immortality. Blessed are the poor who are filled with Jesus. Blessed are the poor who are filled by His Word and by His Supper, by His healing and His life.

Jesus fills you by preaching and Sacrament. And beloved, the Savior you seek goes hand in hand with the preacher you desire to hear. And so Jesus asks the crowds, “When you went out to hear John the Baptist preach, what did you go out to see?” “A reed shaken by the wind?” (v. 7). In other words, did you go out to hear a preacher who could be blown this way and that by the times, or the desires of his audience? Or perhaps you went out to see a man dressed in soft clothing? That is to say, you went out to hear a polished preacher, a man of prestige and influence, the kind of man who could show you how you also could be healthy, wealthy, and prosperous, the Joel Osteen type of preacher. Kings and presidents receive such preachers into their homes. But John is neither a reed shaken by the wind, nor a man dressed in fine clothing. He is an offense. He is clothed in camels’ hair, and eats locusts and wild honey. He is rough around the edges. And his roughness is indicative of his preaching. He says hard words. For he is a prophet. He speaks the Word of God in season and out of season. He calls for repentance, confession of sins, poverty, faith. And he is more than a prophet, for he does not foretell some future event, but the coming of Jesus Christ now. He speaks of the coming of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world now. He speaks of the least in the Kingdom of Heaven, THE Poor Man, our Lord Jesus Christ, who humbled Himself to become one with sinful humanity, humbled Himself to the point of death, even death on a cross, for us men and for our salvation. Of those born of women, no one is greater than John. Except for Jesus Christ. John is Elijah, who was to come. But Jesus is the Messiah, the One promised by God to save us from our sins, the One who fills us up in the very midst of our poverty. He opens our eyes to see Him in faith, to believe in Him, to trust Him alone for help and salvation. He raises us up to walk in the light of truth. He cleanses us from the deadly leprosy of sin. He opens our ears to hear His Word. He raises us to new life in the Spirit. He preaches the Good News to us. We are full in Him.

So stop your vain search for another. There is no other. Jesus is it. And He is here. Now. For you. There is nothing else that matters this Christmas. There is nothing else that matters ever. Make a commitment now, beloved, to go to every effort to be here in Christ’s Church on Christmas Day for the Christ-Mass. Because the Son of God has made every effort to come to you, taking on your flesh, suffering the punishment for your sins, dying your death, and conquering your death in His resurrection. It is Jesus’ birth you celebrate. Celebrate it with Him at His house. Because on Christmas Day He will celebrate His birthday by giving you the gifts of forgiveness, eternal life, and salvation. He will take away your poverty and give you Himself. Even as He does at this very moment, now, today. He who has ears to hear, let him hear. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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