Roger's Postings

Friday, December 07, 2012

Luke 3:1-6. Preparing for CHRISTmas – clean up the mess!!  9/12/12

 (1)                In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar--when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene-- {2} during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the desert. {3} He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. {4} As is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet: "A voice of one calling in the desert, 'Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. {5} Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. {6} And all mankind will see God's salvation.'"

 John the Baptist comes to us with a very important message, this morning. A message that we dare not ignore, even though it goes against the grain of what our societies thinking is today. For here we have a stressing of the importance of our preparation for the coming of Jesus Christ. He points out the need for a straightening out of our lives.

 Now, of course, that is something that most of us skip over rather lightly. We tend to think that he was only talking to the people way back then. But it is not the same for us today. We like to think that we can have all the benefits and the presence of Jesus Christ without any preparation at all. Or at least it is something that happened way back in our Sunday School and confirmation days. But that sort of thinking is a bit like saying we cleaned up the house and the yard last year, and so we don’t have to think about it again.

 But look, if you found out that you were going to have a very important guest join you for your Christmas festivities this year: say the queen or the Prime Minister, what would one of the first things be that would race through your mind? The place is in a mess, we are going to have to have a really big clean-up; and you would begin to think of all the preparations that you would need to make. From now till their arrival there would be a great deal of nervous energy go into making sure all is right for the occasion.

 Not only would there be a cleaning up of the house and the yard, but I am sure we would also try to clean up our act as well: making sure that our bad habits would not come to light. We would want to make sure that we would live and act in a way that is appropriate for such a visitor.

 All these preparations both outwardly and inwardly we would see as being absolutely necessary. There is no way that we would want our guest to step into an utter mess, or worse still to see such a mess and turn around and leave. So every effort would be made to have a real clean up in order to prepare for such a visitor.

 Now this is very interesting to note that this is the way we think when it comes to the worldly aspect of our lives. When it comes to something important in our everyday life we know the importance of preparation and cleanliness.

 Now with that in mind, listen again to what John says here in this reading: all mankind will see God's salvation. All of us, whether we acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour or not, we all will come face to face with him. God himself is coming to visit each and every one of us. Nothing is surer. He has and will continue to come as Saviour. Also elsewhere we are reminded that he will come as King and Judge. There will be no way of avoiding him or going to heaven behind his back.

 That is why John here makes the point that we had better start being prepared. We had better see to it that the road to our heart has been straightened out and our lives cleaned up. When he comes; gone will be the days when we can say; ‘She’ll be right mate.’ And go on living as we please. It is our Lord God Almighty who is coming to visit us all, and there will be no ‘I beg your pardons’ then.

 So each of us needs to take a good long look at ourselves and see how crooked and rough our lives really are. All of us have deviated from the ways that God would have us tread, and instead preferred to live and do as we please. Most of the time we think we are the centre of our world, instead of God. In fact our lives are so rough and hacked about, that if we were roads in our Council area, we would have been closed long ago. Our lives are in a real mess, when it comes to us standing before our God. And it is not until we are prepared to admit that, that we will have any hope at all. We are doomed to rejection if we think we can stand before God in our sinful human state.

 But it is also not just a matter of recognising that our lives are in a mess: we at the same time need to be deeply sorry about all that is wrong in our lives. It should upset us greatly that our lives are not what they should be. When our Lord comes, gone will be the days when we will be able to sit back and say; ‘She’ll be right. It doesn’t really matter. I’ve tried my best.’ It does matter. And it matters that our very best is not good enough. It is not right that we think we can stand in God’s presence far from perfect.

 There needs to be within us a deep desire to ensure that our lives are what God intends them to be. There needs to be a wanting to rid ourselves of all that is rotten and bad within; despising all hurts and harms and that which does not focus on our Lord and his greatness. Wanting forgiveness of all our sins, and for God’s help to make all things right.

 It is only when we get to that point that we clearly hear that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has come, and has done all that is necessary for the forgiveness of our sins. It is there that we begin to comprehend , the wonderful good news that Jesus, knows the mess that we experience and have made for ourselves. He steps in a does what is necessary for us to be acceptable in God’s sight. He dies on the cross, taking the punishment that we deserve, on himself, so that we might be forgiven. Then he was raised to life again three days later, so that we can be absolutely sure that all of this is for real.

 Knowing this Good News, we are then led by God’s Spirit to repentance: acknowledging our sinfulness and turning to the Lord Jesus, trusting in the forgiveness that he extends to us. We are then constantly made aware of our sinfulness, and are turned to the coming of God again into our lives, to clean us up and help us again to live focussed on him and how he would have us live and act. 

 That is why we week by week gather together here in his house so that he can come to us again and again to give us all this that we need. Here we come to hear him speak his word of forgiveness into our messed up lives. Through his Word, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, he assures us over and over again, of the salvation that has been won for us.

Through his Word that we have in the Bible, he helps us to constantly see and remember the mess that we are in and have made for ourselves by looking and focussing on ourselves, instead of on him. There he also points us to the way out that he has provided for us; constantly pointing us to Jesus Christ and his death on the cross.

 Through our Baptism and our daily return to it, we are assured that we are washed clean from all sin, and that we have been joined into his family. The Holy Spirit enters our lives and fills us with his gifts and helps us on our way.

 At the Lord’s Table Jesus Christ gives us his very body and blood which he shed on the cross for the forgiveness of sins, so that we can again be reassured that he has taken care of the mess that we are in. There he again strengthens and preserves us so that we can constantly look to him, trust him, and go forward to live under him in his kingdom.

 So through Word and Sacrament we are again and again brought to the joy of knowing that God has come to be with us and to share with us the joy of our salvation. He has cleaned up our lives so that we can live with him now and forever. Now we can live in our cleaned up lives, seeking to live and act in accord with the presence of him who is our Lord and saviour.

 That being the case, let us again this Advent season, as we are reminded of Jesus’ coming into our world, heed what he has to say to us here: , '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.'

CHRISTmas. Christ with us, is fast approaching. Let us prepare once again to give him all glory as he comes to us as a human being to be our Lord and Saviour: For to him alone belongs all glory and honour, both here and now, as well as in eternity. AMEN.

 Pastor Roger Atze
Glandore/Underdale Lutheran Parish


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