Archive for the ‘Luke 3:1-14’ Category

He Has Done Great Things For Me, So…

Sunday, December 9th, 2012

Second Sunday in Advent of the Church Year (B), December 9, 2012
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

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When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with  shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, The LORD has done great things for them. The LORD has done great things for us; we are  glad. [Psalm 126:1-3]

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  These are the very Words of God that come to you from the pen of St. Paul  in our Epistle (Philippians 1:2-11), from the mouth of the prophet Malachi, and the proclamation of John the Baptist (Luke 3:1-14), this second  Sunday in Advent.

Grace, the greatest gift you could ever receive.  Peace, the greatest thing that God can give to you.  You have a Savior and King who is closer than  a friend, in fact He is your brother who will never leave your side.  He promises that in all things, even the darkest of times He is with you!  He has  done great things for you, so… does that make a difference in how you are living your life?

ILLUS: One of my favorite movies during the Christmas season is “It’s a Wonderful Life” staring Jimmy Stewart.  The story is set during the time of  the Great Depression.  Jimmy Stewart’s character, George Bailey has found out that the Savings and Loan that he is the president of has pretty  much gone broke.  He is overcome by grief and wanders out of town in a snow storm to a bridge just outside of town; the reason he is there is to do  what many poor souls did during that dark time of our nation’s history… he intends to kill himself.  As he climbs onto the bridge’s railing and looks  down into the dark cold waters below, the camera shifts to two angels in heaven who are also looking down at George.  One of the angels, named Clarence who is George’s guardian angel in training asks the other more senior angel, “Is George sick?”  And the other angel replies, “No worse… he’s discouraged.”

Some of you this morning may be discouraged.  This morning, God’s Word is calling out to you and asking you to let Him take away that spirit of discouragement and replace it with a spirit of joy and thankfulness.

I. In our Old Testament reading this morning (Malachi 3:1-7b), Malachi the last of the Old Testament prophets is writing to the people of Israel; a people who are discouraged.  Some have waited and waited for times to improve only to see them get worse, so they have abandoned the God of their fathers and chased after other God’s.  The faithful people of God haven’t followed, but sometimes they too were tempted to leave their religion is search of greener pastures.  So, they have loyally stayed behind to worship in the old way, but their faith is almost gone; they gather every Sabbath day to hear the Word of God, but they aren’t really listening.  Others, the faithful ones, the ones that are always in God’s house doing all of the work that must be done, well they’re still there, but they are just plain tired.  No worse than tired, they like George Bailey are discouraged.  They can be heard saying things like, “What’s the use of all of this church life?  No matter how much we serve the Lord, the ones that have left Him or refuse Him seem to always have it better than us.”

And to this spirit of discouragement, God replies to them and us, “Behold, your salvation is now at the door and the kingdom of God is upon you.  Very soon, your grumbling spirit will be silenced and the complaints of the priests and prophets will stop.  Those who preach a false message or preach the true message but do not believe in it will be silenced and God’s Word will be fulfilled.  The righteous people who still believe will be separated from the unbelieving wicked people, and those faithless people will no longer enjoy power and security, but you O little lambs of faith will dwell in the house of the Lord forever!

II. This morning, God brings two messages to us.  One is a message of Law and the other is the pure sweet gospel.  God wants both of these messages to play out in our lives so that our neighbors, family, and friends will see the difference that God’s Son, our Savior Jesus makes in the lives of believers and the world we live in.

A. The first message is simply one of repentance.  “Behold I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me.  And the Lord you seek (the God that your soul has always thirsted and hungered for) will come to His temple (that is the gathering of His saints); and the messenger of the (new covenant) that is (Jesus the Judge will come to judge the living and the dead).  But who can endure the day of His coming and who can stand when He appears?”

In other words if you are not living out a life that trusts in a God who will make all things right and new, if you aren’t resting and trusting in His Son Jesus Christ who has come and will come again, you should be afraid, very afraid, because you will be judged and punished for your lack of faith and your lack of righteousness.

For some, resting and trusting in a Savior who came as a baby in swaddling clothes and then died a miserable death upon the cross is just too hard to believe in.  So they are the ones who have completely rejected the call of Malachi and John the Baptist to prepare for His coming.  Not only do they refuse to make His paths straight and the rough places smooth, they are doing all they can to fight the church’s work in doing those very things.  These are the scoffers and the atheists who belittle Christ and His church and work to undermine God’s means of grace that He has instituted to create faith and hope in people who are discouraged.

Then there are those who were once part of the church, part of the group of people who served God in His Kingdom of grace.  They were the ones proclaiming the gospel, living out the gospel of peace, but now because they are discouraged they have checked out.  They may gather with God’s people occasionally, but secretly they have given up hope in the truth of the message.  They have become discouraged.

B. And this is precisely where the second message comes in.  It starts with the first message of repentance, but then it removes all of the fear and hopelessness and replaces those feelings with faith and joy.  Repent!  Who can endure and not lose hope?  Who can endure the day of His coming?  Who can stand in hope when He appears again?  Those who gather around the treasure of our God; those who continually hear the Word of the gospel and place their hope in God’s gifts to His people.  The treasure of the church is Jesus Christ Himself and the gifts are His Word and Sacraments!

These are the very things that refine us and sustain us in difficult times.  They are the difference between faith and faithlessness.  God’s Word when it speaks the law to our sinful flesh burns away anything and everything that we might be tempted to trust in.  In the law of God we discover that there is nothing we can do to make God love us; nothing that we can hold up to Him and say, “See, this is good.”  In the law we discover that all of our righteousness or good works are like filthy rags before our creator.  But in His Word that we call the gospel, God makes some awesome promises to us.  He promises that we as members of His Church, the body of Christ are the new priesthood.  We are the true sons of Levi who God Himself has purified and is still purifying to this day.

In the gospel of Jesus Christ we are told that it is God’s will that no one should die in their sins but that all of us should repent, turn to Jesus and away from our sins and be saved.  We are to trust in the truth that God’s Son did come to us as an infant, conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary.  We are to trust that He did live a perfect life on our behalf and then suffered and died by the hand of Pontius Pilate for the forgiveness of our sins.  But we are also to obediently believe that He in fact rose from the dead, ascended into heaven, and He will come again to judge the living and the dead.  And finally, we are to believe in the resurrection of our own bodies where we shall live with God forever in the new heaven and earth, where His Kingdom shall have no end.

How do we trust this message?  By receiving the gifts of God and by gathering around His means of grace that preserve us in this faith.  We do not neglect the meeting of the saints; that is we do not quit going to church, because it is here in church where God sustains us and protects us.  In holy baptism he took a brood of vipers, filthy in their sins and washed them clean like fullers’ soap.  Through the washing of the water and the word,  He created and sustains the gift of faith within us, the very thing that turns vipers into saints.  In the preaching of the Word, here in this very church, God continues to purify you by declaring His message of truth and hope.  And at His table, He sustains that hope in a meal of forgiveness and peace.

III. These are the gifts that sustain us and help us live a life of purpose; a Christian life of goodness.  We do not become discouraged when others fall away or ridicule us for our faith, because we are living a life that was bought with the very suffering and death, the life blood of our King Jesus; we are not our own, but we were bought with a great price.

So then, how we live our lives, in fact our very lives, becomes an offering acceptable and pleasing to God.  We may become discouraged, but we do not lose hope, because the very Word of God is what produces and sustains hope within us and encourages us to continue waiting for the Advent, the second coming of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  And as God does this mighty work of producing faith, we can say with all of the church, “He has done great things for me, so I will praise the Lord.  I will praise Him with my time, talent, and treasure; I will praise Him with my very life, and I will teach my family to do the very same thing, over and over again, no matter what happens around me; I will praise Him until Christ returns again.”

CONCLUSION: Please rise and join with me in singing, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” [LSB 657]