Advent 2, 2018
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
December 9, 2018
Malachi 3:1-7b, Philippians 1:2-11, Luke 3:1-20


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            We have made it to the second Sunday of Advent and now John the Baptist has come on the scene.  John is that wilderness prophet who is the last of the line of the Old Testament prophets warning the people to repent.  He is in the model of the prophet Elijah and John is foretold by Isaiah and Malachi. 

            John is preparing the way for the Messiah.  John is the voice of one calling in the wilderness, he is the one making straight the path for the Lord.  John is making mountains low and filling in valleys.  John is getting people ready for Jesus to come into place to begin His public ministry and John’s message is harsh.

Here you now sit, 2,000 years after John was preaching in the wilderness in order to get people ready for Jesus.  Jesus now has already come.  He was born in Bethlehem. Thirty years later Jesus had three years of preaching, teaching, healing, feeding and caring for the people. Jesus entered into Jerusalem that first Palm Sunday as a king and by the end of the week had been arrested, tortured, crucified and laid in a tomb.  Jesus then rose from the dead and ascended into heaven promising to return.  

This is the era you are now in; Jesus has come and gone and you are waiting for Jesus to return.  This is different from the crowds going out to John the Baptist that day by the Jordan River.  You are not the offspring of snakes believing that because you are descended from Abraham that you can live life as if you are a pagan.  You do not believe that your ancestry guarantees that you are good with God even while you live a life of evil; oppressing people for your own gain.

            You are not a brood of vipers.  You have been baptized into Christ; you are a follower of Jesus of Nazareth, God in flesh.  You are not waiting for the Messiah to come to earth to save you from your sin, but you are waiting for the Messiah to return on the last day to conquer evil forever. 

            Now John’s message of repentance is still valid.  You still need to live a life of repentance.  You still need to struggle against sin.  When you fail and fall into sin you must again repent.  You cannot live in unrepentant sin because it will destroy your faith.  As a Christian you cannot live as if you are an unbeliever because that is what you will become.  Embracing sin is to turn your back on God.  To embrace sin is to reject God.  You need to reject sin and embrace God.  So repent.  Have sorrow over your sin and turn away from sin and turn back to God.  Reject sin, embrace God, and live life in preparation for Jesus’ return on the last day for judgement. 

            You are indeed in a different situation from the crowds that day with John the Baptist, but some things are still valid.  The question the crowd asks John that day is still an appropriate question for you currently.  “What then shall we do?”  “Knowing Jesus is going to return, but we don’t know when, how then do we live?  What do we do?” 

            John the Baptist gives his answer.  Luke 3:11 (ESV) 11 … “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.”[1]  Those who have extra should share with those who do not have the basics.  It is a call to live generously.  Our natural way to live is to live selfishly and worry about what is in it for me, me, me, me?  John’s words are a call to live in lavish selflessness rather than miserly selfishness.  It is a call to give to others in need.

            After the crowd’s group question, “What then shall we do?” we hear from a couple of subgroups, the tax collectors and the soldiers, each asking the same question, “What shall we do?”  And John answers the tax collectors, “Collect no more than you are authorized to do.” To the soldiers he says, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.”

            So the big question everyone asks John is the same question many people have today about life as a Christian; “What shall I do.” 

            This is not a question related to salvation.  The question is not, “What shall I do to be saved?”  Salvation is finished.  That has been taken care of by the Lord Jesus himself.  The question is; “Now that I have been saved, how shall I live?”

            If you are a teacher, what should you do?  Teach well and love your students.  Put in the time to do the necessary preparation and grading.  Be patient and kind. 

            If you are an insurance sales person, what should you do?  Sell people the right coverage based on their needs and not on what has the highest commission.

            If you are a worker in a restaurant preparing food, what should you do?  Wash your hands well and prepare food properly in a clean, sanitary environment with fresh ingredients. 

            If you a pastor, what should you do?  Prepare well for Sunday worship.  Put in the needed time on the sermon.  Visit the sick.  Care for the people.  Don’t waste time or money. 

This is not a question related to salvation.  The question is not, “What shall I do to be saved?”  Salvation is finished.  That has been taken care of by the Lord Jesus himself.  The question is; “Now that I have been saved, how shall I live?”

            If you are a student, what should you do?  Do your homework.  Prepare for tests.  Put in the effort to learn the material and don’t cheat or take shortcuts.

            If you are a husband or wife, what should you do?  Remain faithful and committed to your spouse.  Love, honor, keep and cherish them deeply.  Don’t flirt with others.  Don’t complain and find faults.  If you are having trouble, work on the trouble. 

            We could go one for another half hour of various vocations and what to do, but instead let’s sum it up.  In whatever it is that you are doing, do it well and do it honestly.  Do it like a baptized child of God should do it. 

            Don’t cheat.  Don’t steal.  Don’t complain.  In this life there are is a great deal of temptation to take shortcuts; to be lazy; to take bribes and kickbacks.  There is temptation to complain about your situation, your boss, your teacher, your wages, your life.  Instead, be content in whatever your situation and stay prepared for Jesus’ return. 

            Jesus is going to return and you don’t know when, so how do you prepare?  Should you retreat up to a mountain top and start a commune?  Should you get rid of all your earthly possessions and become a monk?  No.  That is not what John the Baptists says to do.  John says you should do what you should be doing.  In your life, with you being you, do the right thing because it is the right thing.  Follow the Ten Commandments because God tells you to follow the Ten Commandments.  Love God and love your neighbor.  Do the right thing, not in order to earn God’s favor, but because you have already been redeemed by God through the blood of Jesus. 

            And as you do the right thing because it is the right thing, don’t expect to be rewarded.  I think well-meaning people sometimes have messed things up by rewarding us for just doing what we are supposed to do.  You have already been rewarded for something you didn’t do.  You have already received the gift of eternal life that is yours in Christ.  By doing the right thing you are not going to earn extra points in heaven or extra benefits on earth.  You are not going to earn a candy bar or a trophy for doing what you are supposed to do.  Do the right thing anyway.  Because it is the right thing.  Because it is your duty.  As we hear from Jesus in Luke 17:10 (ESV) 10 So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’ ”[2]

            Appropriately the second candle on our Advent banners say, “Prepare!”  So, as the Boy Scouts used to say, “Be prepared!”  Stay in Christ.  Stay connected to His Word and Sacraments in the church.  Do what you are supposed to be doing.  Do the right thing because it is the right thing because you have been made right in Christ.



[1]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001


[2]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001