SERMON TEXT BELOW
No Detour Ahead!
Vicar Matthew Kinne
Bible Readings: John 1:1-18; Hebrews 1:1-12; Isaiah 52:7–10
Most of my family is from Wisconsin. Up there we have a saying that there are only two seasons throughout the year. There is winter and then there is road construction season. It is quite frustrating when you are traveling to see friends or family and you come upon that unwanted sign saying, “Road Closed Ahead”. As much as the sign also says, “Follow Detour”, there is an unwanted, unsettling anxiety that builds up in every driver. What if the detour is not marked properly and I miss a turn? What if the detour takes me in the opposite direction of my destination? What if the detour adds over an hour of traveling and I do not get to my family Christmas reunion in time for Mom’s famous banana bread?
Detours can be frustrating, but they can also be necessary. Without planned detours, defects in the road cannot be avoided. Without proper signs, no one would know the dangers that lie ahead. Without proper instruction, no one would know how to turn around and follow the better path. Looking at it this way, detours can have a more promising outcome that outweighs their annoyances.
If a regular road closing seems annoying, imagine what patience it would require in order to travel a detour that takes many generations to get back on the course of God redeeming His people. For all the people in the Old Testament waiting for the Messiah to come, it probably seemed like God took many long and agonizing detours. Adam and Eve never saw the Messiah promised when God cursed the serpent in the garden. Genesis 3:15 (ESV) “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” All their descendants died in the great flood except for Noah and his family. Abraham never saw how many descendants he would have through Isaac, but as we can see in the Old Testament history of the children of Israel, God saves those from the line of Abraham repeatedly all the way down to Mary and Joseph. God saves Israel from the bondage in Egypt, brings them through the Red Sea waters, saves them from the hunger and thirst of living in the wilderness for forty years, and finally brings them to the promised land. God continued to guide His people even though they put their trust in earthly kings. After Babylon takes over Israel and spreads its citizens throughout the ancient world, God continues to send prophets to pave the way of the Lord.
The Old Testament tells of a long and twisted and tiresome road from Eden to the manger in Bethlehem. We hear about how God had to make so many detours because of man’s sin. Yet God made sure every detour led to the Christ child that first Christmas morning. He made sure that His promises were kept and that His plan to save all mankind would come into fruition.
Before Adam and Eve’s fall into sin there was only one straight path from God to His creation. Because sin entered our world, the pride of man made everyone blind to the truth that we need God’s grace to live. Sin cut off that narrow path to the Father, thus condemning everyone to a worthless life without God. Because this disease of imperfection is handed off from parents to children, the history of sin continues to repeat itself. That is, it continues to repeat until God intervenes by sending a baby in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.
Since God is love, He has compassion on His creation. God establishes a way in which His children will know Him. He sent messengers, the prophets, to prepare the way of the Messiah. God sent these watchmen in the hopes that His people would hear His voice and follow it. But instead of waiting for Christ’s birth they follow the paths of the world and kill the prophets. If they did not honor the prophets, what will they do to God’s Son?
Today we celebrate Christmas, the incarnation of the Son of God. John 1:14 (ESV) “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” This is the end of the detour! The Messiah has come! But the world does not listen to the warnings. They do not heed the signs. The world turns off the straight path to the Lord and seeks the wrong destination. Now it is up to God to reprogram everyone’s GPS to the correct destination. The Holy Spirit shows us the way. And what is that destination? It is the glory of Christ on the cross where He takes away the sin of the world. This cross is where He shines in our darkness so that we can also become Children of the Light.
Since God is love, He has compassion on His creation. God establishes a way in which His children will know Him. He sent messengers, the prophets, to prepare the way of the Messiah.
John the Baptist was the last sign on the detour pointing directly at this destination. He proclaimed the words of Isaiah saying, “prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God”. Since Israel was lost in their sinfulness, John taught repentance and baptism so that the nation of Israel was ready for the Kingdom of God. This kingdom was found in no other place but the body of Jesus Christ. God’s kingdom is not of this world, but it entered our world for our benefit.
The Word of God becomes flesh and dwells among us. He knows our world. He understands our pain, our frustration, and even temptations. But unlike all men born in sin, this Jesus is conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of a virgin. He receives His flesh through Mary, but He receives His perfection by His divine nature as God. Therefore, He never sins once. He never gives into the detours and temptations of sin. His path is clear!
This Man was sent to start a new path, one that brings the whole world back to its Creator. This path was to fulfill all the words of the prophets in the Old Testament. He lived a perfect life. He healed the sick and the dying. He preached the ways of God in the temple and synagogues. But ultimately, He completed the covenant given to Abraham and fulfilled the promise made to Adam and Eve in the garden by shedding His blood in exchange for their sin and the sin of all their children.
But the path does not end there. He did die, but He did not stay dead. He is God. He was with the Father and the Holy Spirit before creation. Jesus is everlasting. Therefore, death cannot hold its grip on Him. He is the God of the living, and He gives everlasting life to you! He gives you His righteous life in your Baptism. In this Baptism, you are born of the Holy Spirit. This is the same person, the Holy Spirit who put life in Mary’s womb, who gives birth to new life in you in the baptismal font. This way before the Father in heaven, you are covered by Jesus’ righteousness. The sin you received from your parents has no effect on your eternal salvation. Jesus took the effects of death on Himself!
This new path we are walking is the path of the Baptized. Jesus leads us through this desert of a sinful world by His pillar of light. We are children of the light and need to comprehend that there is no detour ahead outside of Christ. Avoid the detour of thinking your good works will save you. Avoid the detour that because God will always forgive you, that you can keep on living in sin. These are deviations from the true path! Christ is the path and establishes where you can find Him. That is, you can find Him where sound teaching of the Word of God is preached and where His body and blood are offered to you for the continuous repentance and forgiveness of the many detours you take away from His light.
Christ is the straight and narrow path to the Father. He gives us eternal life in exchange for our detours from Him. He found us while we were lost. Through centuries of faithfulness and unfaithfulness God showed His frustrations by refining His people in the Old Testament by various trials. He even puts us to the test as a people who fall into the trap of sin, yet He locates us and turns us back in His direction. He shows us His path because He loves us and wants us to be allowed into His family reunion. When He comes back to be the judge, He will separate the evil doers—those who did not follow the straight path—from His children who were led by His light. He will again establish a new path, one that we will travel together for all eternity in the heavenly glory of our Father. We will never again be lost because we will always be with Him. His path is always straight and has no detours. He gives us the light that the world could never give, and we find that light in the newborn child, Jesus Christ. Amen!