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BETHLEHEM LUTHERAN CHURCH: | Mason City, Iowa USA | Pastor Mark Lavrenz

Dec 10, 2017  SERMON ARCHIVE

Sunday Sermon - Pastor Lavrenz Stained Glass - Communion

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our heavenly Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, AMEN

The text for our meditation today is the Gospel Lesson for this Sunday, Mark 1:1-8. There we read these words:

The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is written in Isaiah the prophet: "I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way" "a voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’ And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. And this was his message: "After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

It won't be too many days from now, and people will snap to attention. Someone will shout, "Here he comes; look! There he is!" And the eyes of everyone, young and old, will turn to see him. Everyone has heard the promise that he will soon show up, and he will surely keep his promise.

And then you will see him, with your own eyes, you will see him. Santa Claus, riding on a float in the parade, or at the mall. Or at least you'll see the tell-tale signs that he came and left his presents and ate the cookies you set out for him. Yes, Santa is on his way. Oh, sure, there are some, cold-hearted souls, who deny his existence. But we know better, don't we?!

So, since he's coming, throw yourselves into the preparations! What fun! Trees and ribbons and packages and bows. Cards to send - if you ever send them. Visits and parties. And those little things that make Christmas time so merry. Santa's coming, dear friends. Believe it or not! Christmas is just around the corner, again. It's time to get ready.

Of course, HE is coming, too. He, you know, Jesus, your Lord. You might want to think about preparing for His arrival, also! You see, God tore open heaven and emptied it out for you when Jesus came. He came, just as He promised He would come. He came, a little baby; and He rode into Jerusalem like a King - a King Who is not big and powerful and scary and all of that. Instead, He rode in a parade, and the children shouted, "Look! There He is! Hosanna in the Highest!"

And just as Jesus promised, He died at Jerusalem for those children, and for His enemies, and for you and me. Then He ascended out of sight. Yes, He is coming. In fact, He comes to you today, in His Word, in His Supper, and you too sing with the children: "Blessed is He, Blessed is He, Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord."

And what is so cool. There's one more message of "He's Coming" left to be spoken. Some day soon, Jesus, your Master, will return, when you are getting off of work, or when you are sound asleep, or when the rooster crows, or as you rise and stretch and yawn. More sure than Santa coming with Rudolph is Jesus coming with His holy angels.

That Day is not far off now, either. It cannot be much longer, especially the way the world is going. And every eye will see him, from the least to the greatest. So prepare.

Stained Glass Baptism Window

Learn from the children, dear friends! "When's Christmas?! When's Christmas?! How many more days?!" They look to see the sleigh and that red nose. Look with them, my friends, and teach your children to look forward with even greater anticipation: "Jesus is coming soon. When's the Last Day?! When's the Last Day?! How many more days till Jesus?"

Of course, as you know, there are those cold-hearted souls who deny His existence, too. Who deny that He will really come again. They act as if it's all just make-believe. But we know better, don't we? Or do we?

From the evangelist St. Mark, we hear the following this Second Advent Sunday: "The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, God's Son." Or, as the NIV puts it: "the Gospel ABOUT Jesus Christ."

Either way, I suppose, is okay, even though what we preach is not some news ABOUT our Savior, but the preaching OF God's Son. The preaching OF Christ crucified and risen, the preaching OF forgiveness. The Good News that you hear is this: God's Son came down in human flesh. And that's what makes St. Mark so interesting this morning. Mark says: "The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ," and then he tells you all about St. John!

St. John, the Baptizer. That's who St. Mark tells us is the beginning of Christ's Gospel. That means that John is Jesus' doing. John is God's appointed mouthpiece to proclaim the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world. He is the fulfillment of what God promised through the prophet Malachi: "I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way."

The Old Testament wraps up Israel in the hopeful Word that Christ is coming! He is coming any day! He is coming on the heels of baptizing and teaching . God Himself will work through John, His holy prophet!

"A voice of one calling in the desert, 'Prepare the Lord's way." The NIV says, "prepare the way FOR the Lord," but the Greek just says: "Prepare the Lord's way." "Make His paths straight." Not, "make straight paths FOR Him." What's the difference? Prepare the way FOR the Lord, or prepare the Lord's way? Make straight paths FOR Him, or make His paths straight?

I know you may not think its that important. I mean, when someone's coming into town, you get ready FOR them, don't you? You get busy. You work hard. You tidy up the place; you wash and clean. You have to get things looking spiffy to prepare FOR their arrival.

But St. Mark says prepare the Lord's way. That's a little different than preparing FOR somebody. How do you prepare somebody's way? How do you make somebody's paths straight?

John says: "This is how you do it - Everybody, in the water! All of Israel leave your homes and come out to the desert! Leave your cleaning and your spiffing up. Come out to the wilderness, and bring your sins. The Lord is coming. Prepare His way!"

John was calling all of Israel to repentance; calling them to Jesus. "Everybody into the water!" Because the Lord was coming to the water. Everybody in, because He's coming just for you! He's dressed Himself in flesh and blood for you, and now He's coming for your sins. So, everybody in the water.

Come with all your dirt and fear and sin and death. Come one, come all, and make this water filthy. Stir it up like cattle fouling up a stream. Prepare the Lord's way, because He didn't come to step into a bathtub to get clean. He came to step into a cesspool to get dirty! So, come. Prepare the Lord's way!

And then, "Make His paths straight." He's coming to the water, after all. Don't be somewhere else. Don't say you do not need to be where Jesus is. Don't say you do not need His washing. He's coming just for you. He's coming to the water. And He's coming there for sinners. He is coming for you.

Stained Glass Confirmation Window

So dear friends, make His paths straight. Don't try to turn Him with your talk about your righteousness, your holiness, your faith. If you've got some of that, then great! Into the water with you, anyway, with all that REALLY counts! Your sin! Jesus is coming for THAT! He is coming to the water for your sins.

Make His coming straight by being what He came for; .....not the super righteous who don't need repentance; .....not the big believers who don't need His washing or His teaching; .....not the self-deceivers who are just too busy for what Jesus came to give.

Into the water with you, and know that where you are with all your sins, your Jesus is there, too! And that's the REAL preparation that is going on this morning. John the Baptizer came "preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins." John was getting everybody in the water for forgiveness. And that meant, for Jesus. Because as we've been saying, Jesus was coming to the water. You won't hear that read this morning, but you'll hear it in Epiphany.

But you know it, don't you? Jesus is coming! Coming to where the sinners are, and that is what this season's all about. John's whole ministry was to get sinners all prepared for Jesus; which meant he preached them into the water - a water just for sinners. Because that's where the Lord was coming! And that's where everything would change.

John says: "After me will come One more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit." By this, John tells you that it isn't in your coming that you're changed, but in the coming of Christ Jesus.

John's baptism was a baptism of repentance. It got sinners IN the water. But Jesus' baptism was better. It brought saints OUT OF the water! John knew that Christ was coming. Coming to the water. Coming into John's baptism where all the sinners were. And with His coming, Jesus did a miracle. He stepped into your sin; into the water muddied with your filth, and then He stepped back out again. And what He left behind is pure, and holy; what He left behind Him was forgiveness.

Dear friends, your God is pleased with you and glad to see you making all the merriment you can this time of year. As God sent Israel John the Baptist, consider me that poor example of an angel God provides to you. John called people to the place where Jesus soon would be. Well, I am calling you to where that Jesus IS.

So, into the water with you all, I say! Which means, into Jesus! Into those great big wounds of His that have swallowed up your sins. Into His life and death for your forgiveness. Don't say you do not need it. In you go! Into the Absolution that calls you forgiven. Into the preaching that calls you well-prepared. Into the Supper that feeds you and sustains you with Christ's flesh and blood.

And yes, into Bible class, whether it is Sunday Morning, Sunday evening, Thursday Morning, or Saturday morning. Into your family devotions and into our Advent Wednesday Services, too.

Why? Because He's coming! Make His paths straight! Prepare His way! And that means: into the preparations with you! Into the water with your sins, and into the preaching with your ears, and into the Supper with your mouths.

It's all great joy for you, and can only add great joy to all your Christmas preparations. Not just because it's nearly time for Santa, but because, as St. John teaches, that's where Jesus Christ, God's Son, will be.

Christ Is Risen.

Luther Rose


Christ Is Risen
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