More or Less – A Sermon on who we are during Advent
More or Less
† Jesus, Son & Savior †
As we continue our journey through Advent, my you be blessed knowing that neither God’s grace, nor His presence will ever be far from you…
As we hear about John sending His disciples to ask Jesus if He is truly the Christ, the Messiah, the one Chosen and set apart to save humanity, there is both comfort and concern.
The comfort comes from knowing that John’s faith was challenged, even as my faith waivers now and then. Perhaps more often it is now rather than then.
It is not uncommon to know that feeling that leads to John sending out his people to ask. Even though John knew in the womb that Jesus was the Messiah, even though John saw the Holy Spirit and Heard the Father’s voice when Jesus was baptized. Even though we sing John’s song, the words he said the day after the baptism –
“There is the Lamb of God! He who takes away the sins of the world!”
Now I can hear John crying out the words added to that liturgical hymn…. “Lord, grant me peace.”
That’s really what is behind his question about whether Jesus is the Messiah. As John sits in the dark, dank jail cell, with breaks only to confront the man who is sinning, sleeping with his brother’s wife.
“Jesus, are you truly the Messiah or do I need to find peace somewhere else.”
It’s comforting to know I am not the only one to ask that… it’s concerning because if John’s faith couldn’t withstand the challenges of life,
how can mine…?
Compared to this greatest of the prophets, the man who testified about Jesus while in his mother’s womb…. Who are you and me?
And how can we have the faith to endure?
As the gospel goes on, as we read the words St Matthew, the insignificance of my faith seems to multiply.
As John’s disciples leave, Jesus starts to praise John to the crowds.
John wasn’t weak and hollow like a willow reed. He wasn’t spun around easily by life, or bent and broken by the storms. He wasn’t a fashion plate, he wasn’t rich and famous, yet people flocked to hear him speak, which tells us he was not just a powerful speaker, he had a message that people needed to hear, and desired too, even if it was painful!
He was a prophet, and more than a prophet.
And people came to hear him, they couldn’t stop themselves.
Jesus says that as great as John was, and no who has ever been born is greater, he can’t be compared to the least in the kingdom of God.
What hope does that give us?
How do we compare to the prophets of prophets?
How can he who is so much more than us, and so much less than them… Hearing that, how do we know joy, on this third day of Advent?
Listening and Understanding
To understand this, we have to listen to Jesus,
He says, about John being the fulfillment of the promise of Elijah’s return, that those who have ears to hear should listen and understand.
That he is our Messiah. Just as He was John’s.
It’s the same answer, the answer to John, and the answer those who listen and hear.
Hear the answer to John again,
the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor. 6 And tell him, ‘God blesses those who do not turn away because of me.*.’ ”
It took me a while to see it, but the answers are the same – and the challenge is seeing that Jesus is the Messiah.
Not just the He is here to save the world,
He is here to bring you and me, and every other broken person we know, into the Kingdom of God.
For those He heals and cleanses, the poor souls that hear the gospel, the good news, and cling to Him, they are the ones dwelling in the Kingdom of God.
They are those who are greater in faith than John the Baptist. “They” includes you and me.
That’s you and me, for we depend on the promises of God, that He will never leave or forsake us, that He will let nothing divided us from His love.
You and I have been raised to life with Christ, we dwell with Him.
We dwell in God’s kingdom by His invitation, by His declaration.
So we are more, even as we see ourselves as less.
We need to know this, we need to count on the fact that we are children Of God. We live in His kingdom, we can’t run from Him, because He abides within us.
He is here, he dwells with you, and though we can’t sustain our faith based on our observations, He sustains us anyway. That is why He came. That is why John/Elijah came and set up his ministry.
That is why Jesus points to his ministry, and the important prophecy about Elijah’s return, these all point to Jesus’ role as the Messiah. They point to His role as the one God sends to restore His people, to give up His life, to redeem us from the bondage of sin, to make us pure and holy in the Father’s eyes.
As the Messiah – as He is lifted up on the cross, he draws us into the Kingdom of Heaven, we become its citizens, we become the children of the King.
We are there, secure in Him, our hearts, our souls, our faith, and trust sustained, even on the dark days, for it is about His strength, His power, His love…
Love that never fades…Love that provides peace, and comfort, and when we see Him providing that love, we even know the joy that shatters the darkness. Love that we can see, through the word, as He reveals Himself in the sacrament, as He renews our spirits.