Sermon for 3rd Sunday in Advent – 12.11.22

+ 3rd Sunday in Advent – December 11th, 2022 +

Series A: Isaiah 35; James 5:7-11; Matthew 11:2-15

Beautiful Savior Lutheran

Milton, WA

 

“Are You the One?”

 

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

“Are you the One who is to come, or shall we look for another?” The question comes from the darkness of a dungeon. The voice in the wilderness has been silenced, reduced to sending pairs of messengers to speak on his behalf. The prophet of repentance has been jailed for calling the king to repentance. The one who came to bear witness to the light sits in darkness awaiting a certain martyr’s death.

 

“Are you the One who is to come, or shall we look for another?” Does John doubt? Would you blame him if he did? Hardly not. After all, he had plenty of reasons. Where was the axe swinging at the root? Where was the winnowing fork sorting the wheat from the chaff? Where was the baptism with holy wind and fire? Did he point to the wrong one? Are you the coming Messiah, Jesus, the Lamb of God, the one so great that I am not worthy to untie your sandals?

 

“Are you the One who is to come, or shall we look for another?” Perhaps John asks this question for the benefit of his disciples. He knows where he’s at. Herod’s dungeon. Unlike the movies and comic books, the hero doesn’t always make it out of the dungeon. John knows he’s not getting out of their alive. Out of the darkness of that prison, one last time, John points his disciples to the Christ who is the light of the world.

 

Whatever the case may be, we can be thankful John asks the question. “Are you the One who is to come, or shall we look for another?” This is the question of Advent. It’s the question the psalms ask over and over again. “Why, O Lord, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?”(Psalm 10). “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?” (Psalm 13). “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Psalm 22).

 

There’s a biblical word for these kinds of questions when we direct them to God; they are prayers of lament. It might sound impious at first, but it’s just the opposite. Lament is a good and necessary prayer that we utter as we look at the world around us and wonder, where is God? Why do the wicked prosper? Why is everything so upside down, twisted, and broken? When will our Lord fix it, set it right, and put it all back together again. “Are you the One who is to come, or shall we look for another?”

 

John’s question is a reminder that this season of Advent always begins in the dark. For John this was the darkness of Herod’s prison. John expected an axe of God’s wrath, a winnowing fork of judgment, a consuming fire, a holy wind. John expected a “messiah” – a strong man, a leader, an emancipator, a warrior and revolutionary, one who would come and set God’s people free. One who would come and restore throne and temple. One who would come to establish the kingdom of God upon the earth where lion and lamb, the carnivore and the herbivore, could lie together in peace and a little child could play near the adder’s den, and go to school, in safety.

 

Advent begins in the dark for us as well. The darkness of this fallen world to be sure. How quickly we become overwhelmed by darkness and death as we flip on the news, scroll through social media, and talk with our neighbors and loved ones. How quickly we become overwhelmed by the darkness within each of us as well. The fears, worries, and anxieties that keep us up at night. The doubts of faith we all have. The wondering where God is when I suffer. The questions we ask, like John, that seem to go unanswered in the dark.

 

And yet, the season of Advent is a holy reminder that John was not alone in the dark of that dungeon. And neither are you. John did not receive what he expected, but something far better. The unexpected Light of Christ that pierces the darkness. The breaking in of the dawn of the new heaven and the new earth in the humble carpenter’s son from Nazareth.

 

John received something unexpected. A baptized messiah willing to stand in solidarity with sinners. A humble messiah willing to eat with tax collectors and prostitutes. A lowly messiah who refused to use His divine power to feed his hunger or establish his kingdom. A meek messiah who endured the beatings of a world who didn’t want him. A crucified messiah who conquered the darkness by diving headlong into the black night, who defeated Death by being swallowed up into Death, and taking the world along for the ride.

 

“Are you the One who is to come or shall we look for another?” The two disciples dutifully ask the dark question of Jesus. And in that hour, at that very moment, before their very eyes, Jesus did many signs – healing the sick, the lame, the demonized. Messiah-signs. “Go back and tell John what you have seen and heard. Tell John about the blind man who can see, the leper who can return home to his family, the lame man who is dancing, the poor who hear the good news. Tell John what you have seen and heard.”

 

Go and tell John. He is your neighbor and friend locked in the prison house of sin and death waiting to hear what you have seen and heard from Jesus, that his sin is covered, that he is justified, that there is light in the darkness and life in death, and meaning in suffering, and gain in loss all thanks to Jesus. Tell John about the signs – sinners cleansed from the leprosy of sin in Baptism, the dead raised to life by the word of forgiveness, the hungry and thirsty refreshed in the Body and Blood of the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world.

 

Jesus comes to us in our Advent darkness as well. Where does Jesus finally answer John’s question? As he is crucified on the cross. Are you the one? Yes. I am. It is finished. For John. For you. For all.

Yes, I am he who came to save you. I am here to save you now, today. And I will come again to save you on the Last Day. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.  The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.

 

And as we wait, Jesus does not leave us empty or alone in the dark. Still Jesus comes with Word and Sign. A cleansing bath of Baptism. The Body and Blood that bring forgiveness, life, and salvation. The Word the speaks a greater truth than the truth of your sin, your doubt, your despair. Light in the darkness. You are forgiven, my child; you are free. Your God has not abandoned you but has embraced you in these most God-forsaken of times. The Light has not gone out but shines in the darkness beckoning you, “Come to me, all you who are burdened and weary and frightened and alone and despairing. And I will give you rest and peace.”

 

“Are you the One who is to come, or shall we look for another?” Yes, our Lord replies. A thousand times yes. I am the One who is to come, who came, and who will come again. There is no other. I am your hope in doubts. Your strength in weakness. Your life in death. Your light in the darkness.

 

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

Beautiful Savior

is a traditional Lutheran Church, faithful to God's Word and His Sacraments. We equip God's people to serve, love, and encourage one another as we grow in our personal relationship with Christ. We reach out to the community as beacons of light, sharing the love of God in Christ Jesus, our Savior.

Church Office Hours

Monday - Thursday 8:30am-3:30pm

Friday 8:30am-11:30am

The office is closed on Fridays during the summer months of June, July, and August.

Preschool Office Hours

August - May
Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday
8:30am-12:30pm

By appointment only June and July

Contact

Address
2306 Milton Way
Milton, WA 98354
Phone
(253) 922-6977
Fax
(253) 922-6977