December 18, 2016 – Fourth Sunday in Advent
by Pastor Pete Scheele
Grace and peace to you as you live in the assurance of God’s love, from God, our Father, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
So are you ready for the coming of the Christ Child this year? We have one more week before the celebration of the Christ Child is upon us and as usual for me I’m not ready. Who I know that I have a lot to do in the next week to get ready for the coming Christ Child, but there is more to getting ready for the Coming One then just having all the gifts wrapped and the Christmas dinner prepared. That’s what all three of our Scripture reading for today are talking about, so lets use our scripture reading today to help us all get ready for the Coming One.
In our Old Testament reading for today we hear God’s Word through the prophet Isaiah telling us, ‘Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.”’ (Is. 35:4) So how many anxious hearts do we have with all that is going to take place in the next week? How many anxious hearts to we have in preparation for the Coming One at the end of the world? Oh, most of us may not be very anxious about the coming one at the end of our time here on this earth because we are preoccupied by the events of this week, which is good because we have the assurance that Isaiah gives to us that God has saved us. Yet still Isaiah goes on to tells us, “And the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” (Is. 35:10) So with the coming of Christmas will there be gladness and joy or will there still remain sorrow even though we may sigh with relief that another big celebration of Christmas is over with all it preparation.
What sort of Christ coming are you expecting and getting ready for this Christmas? Is the Coming One going to be someone who will show God’s wraths and discuss at all that is going wrong with this world or will He give you a reward. What kind of Christmas are you looking forward to? Is the coming one keeping track of who is knotty or nice or is the coming one you are expecting someone who will bring everlasting joy and gladness in this world? That really is the problem with the world today just as much as it was back in the day when the Christ child came the first time. People have many different ideas as to who is coming one is and thus have some very different ideas as to what they expect Him to accomplish in this world.
So who is the coming one you are expecting this Christmas? Well in many ways I guess that it all depends on what your situation in life is. If you were in John the Baptist situation, that is in jail because you told people who was knotty and nice what was going to happen to them, it could have been a confusing time. John was in prison and Jesus Christ was out partying at the house of tax collectors and other sinners. So we hear from the Evangelist Matthew, who was that tax collector who had a big celebration for Jesus, ‘Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples  and said to Jesus, “Are You the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”  And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see:  the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them.  And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” ‘ (Mt. 11:2-6)
Many of the people in the time of Jesus were expecting a Savior to act in a certain way. The Zealots of that time expected Jesus to drive our the Romans from Israel and establish a kingdom here on earth. The Essenes of that time were expection Jesus to seperate the sinners from the saints and condemn the sinners and glorify all the saints. While the general public of that time thought that Christ would restore Israel back to the glory time of King David and Solomon. But Jesus didn’t come doing any of the things that people were expecting or did He? Jesus came into this world proclaiming the good news that God was going to takecare of all your sins and call the people to repent in preperation for that event, which was hard to resist if you saw all that Jesus was doing. Why Jesus was giving the blind sight, the lamp were able to walk again, the lepers were cleansed, the deaf could hear, the demon possed people were freed of their demons and the dead were raised from the dead. Didn’t this show to the world that this was the proomised Coming One or was there something else that people were expecting to see come about with the Christ child?
Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind?  What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses.  What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.  This is he of whom it is written,” ‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you.’ (Mt. 11:7 – 10)
So what are you expecting to see this coming Christmas? People suddenly changing their sinful ways to showing the love of God given to us on Christmas morning? People in the world swaying back and forth depending upon the wind of the time? What changes do you expect to see this Christmas or with the coming of the Christ again? That everything will become cozy and nice? Well if that is what you are expecting than you better be ready for the end of your time here on this earth because the only place that it will be cozy and nice will be in your heavenly Father’s house.
What do you expect with the coming of the the Christ Child this year? Well when you look out at the world that we are living in and even at our own lives we will find that our expectations of the Christ Child aren’t all that different from those of the people in the time of John the Baptist and Jesus. There are those who are expecting that possible this Christmas all the bad that we see in the world and expecially in the relationship we have with others will change to be good once again? For isn’t that what the Christ Child came to do? Why hasn’t the world become better after all that the Christ Child did in this world? If Jesus is the Savior of the world why is their still persecution of His followers today? Why is our life as a christian just a difficult as those who aren’t believers in anything at all?
The brother of Jesus, James, dealing with all the problems that we are dealing with in our times tells us this, “Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains.  You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.” (Ja 5:7-8) We are dealing with a world that is still dealing with the affect of sin in our world even though the Christ Child has come and accomplish what we could not accomplish by His life, death and resurrection. Our sins are taken care of, but we still have to let God work in our lives through His Word and Sacraments so that our lives will be changed from the sinful ways of our sins, the world and the ways of Satan. The Christ Child coming on that first Christmas has changed the world but not everyone in the world knows about the great love, grace and mercy shown to us by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ or wants to let God change their lives from the ways that they have been living in the past.
The seed of God’s love, grace and mercy still has to be planted in the souls of all the people of this world and we are God’s hand that spread God’s Word out into this world as this Christmas comes and goes. God is still making miracles happen in our world just as Jesus came to give the blind sight, the lame the ability to walk, the lepers healing, the deaf hearing and the the dead raised to life. So it is happening by Jesus’s life, death and resurrection He has undone the effect of sin upon the world, but not everyone wants that in their lives, so we live in a world of confussion about the Coming One just as much as John the Baptist did because the harvest is not quite ready yet.
God through the words of James encourages us as we wait for the Coming One by telling us, “As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.  Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.” (Ja 5:10-11)
Jesus will return to restore all things on that last day of His coming again for in His coming as the Christ child He as accomplished all the work of salvation for us all, as was promised. So this year and every year of our lives as the people of God we can expericne the salvation of God in our lives through God’s Word and Sacraments. For through these means of God’s grace our lives are being changed so that we may rejoice and sing song of joy for all that has been accomplished by the Christ Child who came on that first Christmas morning. Yes we can rejoice in all the work of the Christ Child has completed as we paatiently wait for the Coming One to come again and fulfill all the hope and promises we have been given through His Word. Yes, as we celebrate the coming Christmas this year and ever year we share the light of God love, grace and mercy with others so that they may share in the joy and excitement of the Coming One. Amen.