Is Jesus the One? Matthew 11:2-11

The message for the Third Sunday in Advent turns raw.  The reality is that the question being asked is our question as well.  Is Jesus the one we should look to solve all our problems or do we need to look in another direction?  Is Jesus the one to bring the day of Lord which is the reign of God?  Or, what politician can we turn to who will bring God’s blessings?  Which corporate CEO can we turn to who will restore paradise on earth?  What latest technological advancement is coming that will elevate humanity above the mess we keep making in and on the earth?

Last week John the Baptist was so sure and confident.  He railed against the leadership calling them ‘vipers.’  The people were strongly urged to repent and to be baptized in preparation for the coming of One who will baptize them with the Holy Spirit and with fire.  John challenged Herod’s unethical conduct and ended up in prison.  Soon his head will be fetched as a party favor and for revenge.  Suddenly John’s boldness turned to doubt.  John pointed to Jesus but he didn’t live up to expectations.  Now a prisoner, John asks, “Is Jesus the One?”

The message for today is raw because it cuts deep to our own doubts.  Where do we look for that strong, decisive and charismatic leader, who: restores us to an idealized past…leads us to an utopian future…takes away all of our enemies…makes sure we end up on top?  This question has been on humanity’s lips for thousands of years.

Jesus responds to John’s question by referencing the Year of the Lord’s Favor, the Year of Jubilee, when salvation and freedom is brought to all (Isaiah 61:1-2).  Jesus was healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, raising the dead and the poor heard good news.  We are blessed if Jesus’ ways don’t offend us.  We are blessed as the ways of God that bring life are welcomed; instead of a reinforcing the ways of human power.

After all, why did the people go out to listen to John in the first place?  See the scenery?  Look at a person of wealth and power?  No, they came to listen to a prophet.  They came to listen to a word from God.  Isn’t that what we are really listening for in our questioning – a word from God that speaks of salvation?

Jesus brought a radically different understanding of how God’s salvation will be brought to this world.  This radical way is glimpsed when the sick are cared for…good news is heard in the place of empty promises…the poor are lifted up rather than being used for better profits…death is overcome by resurrection.  We are blessed if Jesus’ ways of bringing the kingdom of heaven don’t offend us.


Burglar Alarms and Jesus’ Coming Luke 24:36-44

These days surveillance seems to be the normal for life.  Stores have signs warning of surveillance to protect against theft.  Maybe you have invested in home monitoring equipment with cameras inside and outside on the watch for a burglar in the night.  Jesus told of a house holder being on the watch to prevent his home from being broken into.  The threat at night comes not from a shady character but from Jesus himself.  While a house owner will keep watch to prepare to stop a burglar who might come at any time, Jesus is telling us to also be prepared for his unexpected arrival.

The church is in a transition.  The church begins its new year with the start of Advent which is about preparing for Christ.  This Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent and the emphasis is on the second coming of Christ.  The preparation for his coming leads us to Immanuel – Christ with us – Christmas.  The readings also shift to the Gospel of Matthew.  So we begin the start of the church’s new year looking at Christ’s coming.

The tough challenge for us is not be so caught up with the ways of life that we forget the warnings.  As an example, the vast majority of scientists are sending out the warning of damage being done to the environment by high levels of carbon dioxide.  Will we continue as normal until the weather changes become too severe?

Jesus has just told of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and of great hardship to come.  Naturally, all those in attendance wanted more information to prepare.  Jesus gave no exact timeline but that the Son of Man will return.  When that right moment comes, the elect will be gathered to welcome his coming.  This moment is secret.  Jesus doesn’t even know but only the Father.  This isn’t an excuse to ignore his coming but to make all of life a way of preparation.

Jesus referred to Noah and the flood.  Life was going on as normal. This normal was so full of corruption and evil that God was pained in his heart.  The flood came and the unrighteous were washed away.  So it will be when Jesus returns.  People will be doing what is normal: working, marriage, raising children, etc.  Then one will be taken and another left behind.  As with the image of the flood, what is unrighteous will be taken away.  The ones left behind are the ones to welcome Christ’s return as King and Lord.

So how do we prepare?  How do we get ready for the day we don’t have an exact timeline?  Imagine a newly engaged couple.  Even if the date hasn’t been set, their lives are changed with future plans starting to be put in motion.  Life has suddenly changed for them.  Christ’s death and resurrection has begun a new age that is on the way to being fully established at his return.  Like the newly engaged couple, the focus is to be on the future in God’s reign.

Jesus does give some examples of what are expected in the following chapter.  One is in the Parable of the Talents.  This is using of our resources and abilities to further not the corruption of this age but the age of God’s justice and mercy to be established.  More specific items are listed with the Sheep and the Goats: the hungry are fed, drink is given to the thirsty and clothing to the naked, the stranger is welcomed and the sick are cared for while the imprisoned are visited.  This is how we prepare.

Life as normal is concerned about Black Friday deals and Cyber Monday specials.  Life as normal is worrying about paying the credit card bills in January.  Jesus is telling us to prepare with a life that is a new normal; one prepared for his coming.


What are you wishing for? Luke 1:39-55

“What are you wishing for?” is the kind of question we get often this time of year.  It often comes from those looking to fill in the hole behind our name on their gift list.  So what is on your wish list for the year but lets get serious.  The wishes that go beyond what can be wrapped and placed under the tree.  The serious wishes often fall outside of our capacity to make happen.  The serious wishes might include health for a friend spending too much time in the hospital this last year.  A country less divided…a lot less hatred in words and actions…a calmer Wall Street could also be on our list wishes.  So, “What are you wishing for?”

Elizabeth and Mary had their own personal wishes.  Elizabeth and her husband were at the age where wishing for a child had changed to wishing for the child that could have been.  Yet, she was pregnant.  A new life was going to be born when reality had no hope.  The kind of wish for the advent, the coming of God.

Mary was also pregnant under circumstances considered scandalous.  However, she broke into song that announced the wishes of what was an insignificant young woman living under the dictates of others far more powerful.  The wishes made possible because of the child she was carrying.  The coming of God to bring new life to those with no hope.  The coming of God to make new a world where the wishes of the lowly get filled.

The proud are scattered in the thoughts of their hearts…

The powerful are removed from their thrones…

The lowly are lifted up…

The hungry are filled with good things…

The rich are sent away empty…

The wishes of Elizabeth and Mary were made possible by the advent of God, namely the Christ child soon to be born.

What do you wish for?  Seriously, “what do you wish for?” with the coming of Christ?


Good News Preached Luke 3:7-18

Wow!  John the Baptist sure knows how to be publicly correct.  Calling people a brood of vipers and telling of an ax ready to chop down those not producing good fruit is going to get a bunch of people agitated.  You can almost hear them hissing in protest, can’t you.?  This was John the Baptist’s strategy.  The people were coming to be baptized by him in anticipation for the coming of the Lord.  He was pushing them to become what their actions meant.

Who wouldn’t want the coming of the Lord?  Especially, if it means the Romans get kicked out of the region and you are given power and wealth and blessing and….  Who wouldn’t want this good news!  Yet, John the Baptist is calling them a brood of vipers.  So what gives?

We live in a season of expectation that defines good news and blessing by gifts received and parties attended.  However the words of John the Baptist are still echoing for us to hear and heed.  If good news is to be good news, then it must be for everyone.  He is pushing us to become what is that good news.

John the Baptist describes the coming of Christ who will baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire.  Christ will separate the chaff from the wheat with the chaff being burned with unquenchable fire.  This is good news because this means everything will be changed and a new reign, the Kingdom of God will be established over us.  This is going to be as dynamic a transformation as death giving way to resurrection.

So what should we do?  If someone is hungry, feed them.  If someone is shivering in the cold then find them warmth.  If you are in a position of power then quit rigging the system to your advantage… quit using your power to profit at the expense of others.  This is a radical change from what is happening in the daily news.

So with such news John the Baptist exhorted the people and preached good news to them.  The good news of the Kingdom of Heaven which we welcome in Christ.  It is good news because it is good news for all.