December is most certainly the craziest month of the year! Because we are preparing, aren’t we? Putting the ladder up against the gutter and hanging lights, we are preparing… Going to the stores, the shopping malls, ordering presents on-line, we are preparing… As houses’ interior and exteriors are transformed and become filled with smells of cookies and radio stations change their programing to include old nostalgic songs about chestnuts and winter wonderland and frosty and Santa, along with the birth of Jesus, we are preparing because it will soon be Christmas..
Advent, wreath- countdown, last week we lit one candle and today we light two. We are getting ready and excited for an arrival, not just the package from UPS or Fed Ex to be shipped or arrive on our doorstep, but to celebrate the birth of Jesus as a baby and being expectant of his second birth when he comes again. December is the craziest month- fun, yet busy and hectic sometimes with all the physical things we do to get ready for Christmas. How do we get ready for Jesus?
There is someone who teaches us to do this every December. Not Rudolph, not frosty the snowman, not Santa Claus, but John the Baptist. John’s church was in the desert, no pews, no chairs, no robes, but in the desert by the Jordan River. What did he preach about out there? Baptism of repentance… This wasn’t his idea—God called him to do it. John loved and respected God, so he did— prophesy from Isaiah… John taught them to repent.
Repent means to make a U-turn, to change direction. John was telling the people to change the direction of their lives around and go the other way. We might be doing and doing and doing many things, but this lesson is to just be, be, be… To make some time for ‘quiet time.’ To turn off the TV, the music, shut down the internet, close out Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and take a break from shopping and decorating and just sit,,, and think,,, and identify the weakness in your life. What is your weakness? Your sin? Do you like being surrounded by things? Do you have impure thoughts? Do you have vices that you turn to? Are you impatient with others? Do you say things about people that hurt their feelings? What are your sins? Identify them and then do the opposite. Change the direction in your life. Make a U-Turn.
Ahh… and I forgot the most important thing.
Do you know what it is? Well, you and me, we’ll try all the sitting and thinking and making U-Turns and we may do well with it for a while. But without the most important thing, we’ll fall back into our old ways… Do you know what the most important part of repentance is? It is,,, drumroll please,,,, knowing and, not only knowing, but believing that after we take this very difficult but important step to confess where we’ve messed up, that God wants to and has and always will forgive us. The most important thing is Christ. With Jesus, anything is possible. After you think about the wrong direction you are going, take to Jesus, confess where you’ve dropped the ball, messed up and then rejoice because he forgives you, he forgives you and gives you strength to make the changes. If you want to stop being selfish and be generous, Jesus will strengthen you. If you want to stop being immoral in your thoughts and be pure, Jesus will help you. If you desire to be more patient and more loving, and kinder, take your sins to Jesus, confess them, receive his forgiveness and know his power and strength. That’s what John the Baptist was talking about. (Move to the stable and bring out a few more pieces into the manger) On Christmas Eve, the shepherds found Jesus, the baby in the most unusual place-not in a palace, not on a throne, but in a humble stable, and still today, if we want to see God’s salvation, if we want to see Jesus the Christ we will find him in humble places.
In the humbleness of our confession. Here in the Lord’s Supper, here in the humble bread and wine we will find God’s salvation, the body and the blood of Christ given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sin.
Now I must admit, while December is a crazy month, preparing is fun—sharing this great time of year is fun! Decorating, singing, baking, visiting, all the special times in our church—Advent dinner, Christmas choir/handbell concert, Christmas parties, caroling to sing to members of our church who are in nursing homes, collecting and giving mittens, gloves, scarves and hats, sharing Christmas gifts with children at Glade Run and Trinity in the Northside of Pittsburgh, being generous in our giving to help ministry happen here in and out of this place and the giving the gift of our time to plan and carry out these fun times.
Are you ready for Christmas this year? More importantly, are you ready for Christ? Ready to celebrate his coming? Are you ready to receive him when he comes again in all his glory? If you listen closely over the songs about Rudolph and Frosty and Santa, if you listen closely, you will hear a voice of one calling. ‘PREPARE THE WAY OF THE LORD.’ Open the manger of your heart and hang the welcome sign… Amen.
- Luke 3:1 - 6
- Philippians 1:3 - 11
- Malachi 3:1 - 4