3rd Sunday in Advent (C)       December 16, 2019      Text:  Luke 7:18-28      Rev Jon Nack

            “Hello Pastor!  Ready for Christmas?”  I don’t know about you, but I usually start hearing that question a day or two after Thanksgiving.  I’ve just finished Thanksgiving services in the middle of the week, thinking about Sunday’s services which are a few days away, and all the rest of the things that need to be done before November comes to an end – and fitting an annual trip to visit my mother in too. 

            What I’m thinking is, “I’m not sure I’m ready for tomorrow, let alone all of the extra things that are coming at me in the month of December.”  What I say is something like, “Getting there!  Getting there!” 

            It’s probably about the same for most of you too, I imagine.  When you’re asked, “Ready for Christmas?” you could probably honestly say, “I’m not sure I’m ready for tomorrow, let alone everything that has to be taken care of yet.  And then there are all the problems and burdens that we carry that don’t necessarily let up just because it’s December.

            “Ready for Christmas?”  We could answer that two ways.  From a “cares of this world” perspective, we could say, “No, I’m not ready.  And I don’t know how I am going to tackle it all!”  That perspective is clouded by the sense of anxiety, doubt, and sometimes dread. 

            But, when we understand it a little differently – what Christmas is all about, we could simply ask ourselves, “Ready for Christ?” 

            The answer to that depends on what you expect Christ to do when He comes.  If you expect Him to come and reward you for how well you have done shaping up your life, to commend you for how strong your faith is, for how well your life reflects the will of God each day, to smooth out all the rough places in your life and straighten out all that has become warped and crooked in your thoughts, your actions, your hearts, and for how far you have come as a Christian and how brightly you shine, then I doubt any of us will every be truly ready for Christ.  There will always be more to do, more to correct, more to fix.

            But if you expect Christ to bring healing and restoration to broken sinners, to those whose hopes and expectations in themselves have been crushed, those whose lives have been damaged by sin, those who cry out from the pit of anxiety, frustration and despair, those whose lives have not gone the way they had hoped, and those who know they have fallen far short of the glory of God.  Are you ready for the Christ who brings sight to the blind, freedom for the captive, forgiveness of sins, life to the dead, and hope to the hopeless?  Then the answer is, “YES! YES! YES!”  I am so ready for that Christ to come.  

          John the Baptist was sent to prepare for the coming of the Christ.  He was sent to preach repentance and forgiveness of sins.  He called on people to make straight the way of the Lord.  He proclaimed that the coming of the Christ was near!  And John was that voice, crying out in the wilderness. 

          And that is exactly where Jesus came.  He came into the wilderness.  He came to people who could not fix or straighten out what was wrong with them.  He came to people who were crushed by the guilt of their sins.  He came to people whose expectations and hopes had been crushed by broken marriages, loss of loved ones, loneliness, sickness, disease, oppression, broken trust, desertion, cruelty, and more.

          He came into a world where evil seems to reign.  Where the ungodly seem to exercise their will and power with impunity, and where the innocent often are victimized and suffer extremely at the hands of the wicked – as did John the Baptist who was sitting in prison. 

          And John sends certain ones of his disciples to ask, “Are you the Christ, or should we expect another?”  And what does Jesus do? He sends them back to tell John, “Tell him what you have seen and heard:  the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raise dup, the poor have good news preached to them.  And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”  John was ready for that Christ and what He brought His life and restoration of hope and renewal of strength – and so are we!

          I’d like to conclude this sermon by sharing with you a letter that I received from Rev. Harold Senkbeil, director of the Lutheran Doxology program as we think about the question, “Are you ready for Christmas?”:

Whenever the first Sunday in Advent rolls around, every seasoned pastor steels himself for the familiar roller coaster of mid-week services, Christmas program practices, and multiple events where he’s expected to make polite jovial conversation. There’s nothing like chowing down on holiday goodies while trying not to think about all the services yet to be planned, sermons yet to be written, and homebound visits yet to be completed before Christmas finally arrives.

Ah yes, I remember it well. No doubt you do too. That’s why you likely have mixed emotions as Advent looms large and the familiar marathon starts up all over again.

Well I’ve got news for you. It’s good news of a great joy which shall be to all people - including you.  It was for you that an angel was sent to Nazareth in Galilee to a young virgin named Mary to bring the astonishing news that she would bear a Child: the promised seed of Eve Who would crush the serpent’s head. In the tiny embryo soon to grow within her by the power of the Holy Spirit, all the fullness of the godhead would be pleased to dwell in bodily form. All for you.

For you that Child would be born, for you He would grow into manhood, and for you in His most holy body He would bear all your sins – even the ones of which you are most deeply ashamed.  And by His blood He would blot out forever the penalty that stood against you. Then for you He would be raised up again from death so that He might give you an inheritance among the saints in light.

So open up your eyes, dear brother, and see this holy season for what it really is. Sure, it’s a busy, hectic time. But it’s also time for cleansing and renewal. Advent is a time to start all over again. It’s time to cleanse your heart and renew your spirit in the One who came not just for the people you serve, but for you as well.

Marvel that Christ Jesus came all the way down from heaven to earth just to make you His very own. Call an occasional halt to all the madness – deliberately pause every now and then from your frenetic busyness. Quietly ponder the wonder that Jesus Christ has come to bring you life. Earnestly pray that God for Jesus’ sake would give you His Spirit so that by His grace you may believe His holy Word and lead a godly life in His service in this holy season and for all your years to come.

I’m so ready friends in Christ – ready for the Christ of Christmas to come.  Amen.