Sermon Text: Luke 3:1 – 6
Pastor Daniel Schmidt
One of the rules in the Schmidt Family Household is that we are allowed to start playing Christmas music any time after the first snowfall following Labor Day or on November 1st, whichever day is earlier. So, for example, you may remember that it snowed on Saturday, October 20th. I remember the day because I was at home watching the Wisconsin verses Illinois football game on television that day, and at times it was snowing so hard you could hardly see what was happening on the field.
Many of you know that I LOVE Christmas music. So, you may be wondering why we don’t sing more Christmas hymns in our weekend worship services throughout the weeks leading up to our celebration of Christmas. I can assure you that it is not because Pastor Pagels or I don’t like Christmas. In fact, I personally enjoy the 15 minutes or so before each of our mid-week Advent services, as we sing some of our favorite Christmas hymns and songs.
But, one reason for resisting singing a lot of Christmas hymns during our Worship Services is because we don’t want to miss out on the wonderful message of Advent. Advent is a time of preparation; to prepare our hearts for the celebration of our Savior’s birth; to prepare our hearts for the Great Last Day when Jesus Christ will return again. So today, as we gather together for our worship, let’s resist the temptation to jump ahead to Christmas, and keep focused on the season of Advent. As we gather together around the Word of our God today, the encouragement for each one of us is: Take Time to Listen to the Message of Advent!
What is the message we want to listen to and share with others? It is the same message as John the Baptist. The Gospel writer Luke reports that John “went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” This was a direct fulfillment of what the prophet Isaiah wrote some 700 years earlier when he was led by God the Holy Spirit to describe John as “‘A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. And all mankind will see God’s salvation.’” Rather than coming as the angry judge to sentence sinful mankind to eternal punishment in hell for sin, the promised Messiah would come to offer his perfect life as the full payment price for all sins. What words of comfort for John himself to hear! What words of comfort that he was able to share with others!
What words of comfort for you and me to hear! What comfort is ours knowing that “every valley” in our lives, that is every short-coming, every sin, has been filled in by the blood of Jesus. What comfort is ours that the mountain pile of your sins and mine has been leveled by the perfect sacrifice of God’s one and only Son! What comfort is ours knowing that because of Jesus all of our crooked, wicked ways are all forgiven. What comfort is yours and mine that in Jesus Christ you and I “see God’s salvation” with our own eyes.
As one author has written, “Every sinner longs for the announcement that he or she is free from the bondage of sin and death. Because Jesus has come, we are released from death. We are no longer slaves to sin. We are no longer locked in the dungeon of eternal death because of God’s wrath and anticipating an eternity of punishment in hell…this is not because we have achieved release by our own efforts or because we have done our time and satisfied the Law. Our bondage is over because our loving Father in heaven achieved our release through his Son, the promised Savior.” Through our Savior Jesus, the comfort you and I have to enjoy is the forgiveness of all of our sins and the promise of eternal life at his side in heaven. As Paul writes in Romans, chapter 5, “But where sin increased, grace increased all the more.” What words of comfort for you and me to hear for ourselves! What words of comfort for you and me to share with others!
In just a few short weeks, we will celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Leading up to the celebration of our Savior’s birth, we enjoy hearing and singing the songs and hymns of Christmas. But, during these days before Christmas, may all of us also take time to listen to the message of Advent. As you listen for yourself, as you are filled with joy because of your own forgiveness and the promise of eternal life in heaven through your coming Lord and Savior, remember that the message of Advent is spoken by you, the Lord’s messengers. Ask for the Lord to bless your efforts to share his Word. As you have opportunity, not just during this time of year, but each time you have the chance, be a willing messenger of the Lord as you offer a message of comfort to others; comfort that can only come through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ; comfort that Jesus came the first time to win the forgiveness of sins; comfort that Jesus will come again to take to be by his loving side forever in heaven. Amen.