A Sermon for Series A 2nd Sunday in Advent 2016 “Twenty-first Century Hope”

Old Testament Lesson  Isaiah 11_1-10

Second Lesson  Romans 15:4-13

Gospel Lesson  Matthew 3:1-12

Grace, mercy and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.  The text for our meditation this day is the Gospel lesson just read.  [Matthew 3:1-12]

What we see in things really does depend on our personal experience and our culture.  What would you think if, as you drove through southeastern California, through the Mojave Desert, you saw on the side of the road some guy with a scraggly beard, standing by a stream wrapped in hairy skins and shouting at the top of his lungs, “Repent, for the forgiveness of your sins!”

Would you stop and come over to listen?  Would you get out of your air-conditioned car, walk out into the blistering heat and get in line to listen to him?  I’m not sure, but I think I’d drive on by; but the Gospel tells us that people were standing in line to be baptized by John.

What was the attraction?  What did they expect?  Maybe they didn’t care what he looked like.  Maybe what he said made such an impression on them that they looked right past his scary, grizzled appearance and came running to him.

He had the look of a prophet, and he spoke like a prophet.  There hadn’t been a prophet in the land for almost 500 years!  And so people came from far and wide to hear ‘the prophet’.  They desperately yearned to hear ‘the prophet’.  Just like now, people in John’s time were in need; physically, and spiritually.

They were looking for healing; healing from the plagues and diseases that ravaged their bodies; and some were looking for healing from the sins that ravaged their souls and doomed them to death.  They were looking for food; not the meager fare they were used to, but sumptuous food to fill their hungry stomachs, and some were looking for rich spiritual food to fill their empty souls.  They were looking for freedom; freedom from the foreigners who were constantly oppressing them, and some were looking for freedom from sin that enslaved them.

We’re no different today.  We pray for good health.  We pray for God to bless our families with what we need for each day.  We pray and thank God that he has placed us in a country that gives us many freedoms.  And we pray for spiritual blessings too.  God wants us to pray for all these things, because in praying for and receiving his blessings, we come to recognize that we can depend on him, and our trust in him strengthens.

But is that the attraction?  Is it the getting of God’s gifts that keeps us coming to church?  God tells us that he’s a God who loves to pour out his blessings on us.  When we come to worship we even call it the Divine Service to remind us that, first and foremost, God serves us as we worship.  And we need those blessings.  Life is rough; filled with temptations that tug at us, that confuse us, that lead us astray.

And why wouldn’t we feel anxious and on edge; we’re under a lot of pressure these days?  Political correctness and tolerance are thrown in our faces as our faith is called elitist, or narrow mined and out of touch with main stream America.  At least we have freedom of religion that gives us the right to worship as we wish … well, at least in church… as long as we don’t try to live our Christian life out in public.

It’s as if Christianity is the only religion that’s fair game for tolerant people to be intolerant of; and although we’ve developed thicker skins, all this pushing and slandering takes its toll.  It can make us doubt.  We begin to wonder what is right, what is true.  Could so many people be wrong?  It makes us want to go looking for the answer; to go looking for something that attracts us; looking without even knowing what we’re after.

Certainly the physical blessings attract us, but we should remember that God gives those to believers and unbelievers alike.  There must be more that attracts us; something that lasts, something that satisfies our hunger for all time; something that comforts us even when times aren’t going as smoothly as we’d anticipated.  There must be something we can’t see but that we believe in just the same.  That something we’re looking for is hope.

Hope that encourages us; hope that gives us the endurance we need to make it through each day; hope that fills us with all joy and peace; hope that’s ours believing in Jesus Christ, our Savior.  He’s our hope.  He’s the only one with abounding, everlasting hope.

Believing in Christ Jesus, we’re released from the fear of falling short, from the fear of never being able to correct the mistakes we’ve made in our lives, from the fear of not being worthy of God’s forgiveness; because Jesus has already paid the price for all our sins.  Believing in him we have hope, because he has forgiven all our sins.  We have hope because the One who’s steadfast and true, the One who keeps all his promises, has conquered all our enemies, even our greatest enemy, death.

We have hope for today; and hope that we’ll live forever in heaven, sheltered, protected, and provided for, by his presence.  We have all of this as a gift from our heavenly Father, because we believe that his Son came to earth, becoming one of us, for just one purpose: to lay down his life to ransom us from sin, death and the devil; that his Son died that we might not die eternally, but have life, and have it abundantly.

Because we’re in Christ, we have this hope now; and we have life eternal now.  We have the thing that John had, the very thing that attracts; and like John we can give it away; giving everlasting hope to a world that only looks for hope day by day.

And here’s the really amazing thing: giving away this hope makes it abound all the more in our own lives.  So spread the good news, “The kingdom of God is at hand!”  Show the world the joy that God has put in your lives; show the world what ‘repent for the forgiveness of sins’ really means; show them your hope.

Hope is the attraction.  It’s what John had and it’s what we have; and hope is ours in Christ.  Hope is ours by believing in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We heard Paul say it today and it’s worth hearing again:  May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.  Amen.

In Christ’s service,

Pastor Huelle