When the LORD Comes Near -- He Humbles His People

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Our text today is the Gospel reading, and the work of John in verse 3: “He went into the whole region around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”
Let us pray: These are Thy Words oh Lord; help us and sanctify us in the Truth. Thy Word is truth. Amen.
What sound might you associate with Advent? Have you ever thought about that question?
Now you might think that the sounds of Advent should be Handel’s Messiah playing in the background, perhaps a harp or two strumming out familiar Christmas tunes, or maybe a church choir practicing a nativity chorale.
But that’s not the sound of our Gospel for today. No, instead the sound is that of jackhammers, bulldozers, and gravel trucks.
The sound one hears is that of a foreman shouting out building orders over the deafening sound of paving equipment. The sound one hears is God’s messenger proclaiming wonderful news.
So, how do we respond when we hear the proclamation of the the jackhammers, bulldozers, and gravel trucks? (I). We eagerly and joyfully make the road Christ travels as smooth as possible. (II). We acknowledge the crooked paths our sins have made. (III). We level the mountains of good deeds we have piled up as monuments to ourselves.
His desire to be near to us produces our desire to be near to Him. That desire shows itself in humble, repentant faith.

I. The Smooth Road

Who is John the Baptist?
He is the miraculous child born to Zechariah and Elizabeth. He was the answer to years of prayer that Zechariah and Elizabeth offered up to God. How often Zechariah, the priest teaching about Abraham and Sarah, must have thought, If only the same could happen for Elizabeth and me.
John the Baptist is the last of the Old Testament prophets. A span of nearly 400 years separates him from the Old Testament Book of Malachi. But now suddenly the time is fulfilled (Gal 4:4) — “But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son to be born of a woman, so that he would be born under the law, in order to redeem those under the law, so that we would be adopted as sons.” The birth of John comes with a purpose. God is preparing a smooth road unto salvation.
What is the message?
A clear call to repentance and confession. John was preaching a “baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” The call was to “prepare the way of the Lord.” To smooth the road for Jesus to come, and John is sent by God to make this bold declaration.
So, people were coming to John to hear a message that calls them to true repentance. Why repentance? Because no matter how hard one tries the Law cannot be kept perfectly, because man always fall short.
As a result, instead of a smooth road we end up with a crooked one. You see, the Law does not exist for the purpose of obedience, but repentance. When we look at the Law we see nothing but our failure.
One of the blessed gifts of God is repentance — confessing our sins.
This is a message for the entire world, which started with John the Baptist in the wilderness, and continues today in the preaching of the Word. Luther put it this way:
Isaiah 40–55 An Overview of Isaiah 41–48 (40:3–8)

But here comes a voice, a clear and complete and universal proclamation which purely and joyously and most loudly declares that the warfare is ended and that sins are forgiven.”

The road needs to be made smooth because our sin has made it crooked. And only Jesus can truly turn a crooked road smooth.

II. The Crooked Road

There is no other way of salvation but by Christ Jesus
But that has not stopped humanity from trying to convince itself that it doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you are sincere.
Our focus is on being “good enough”.
We treat the Ten Commandments as “Minimum Daily Requirements.”
We think nothing about breaking the First Commandment of putting other things before God.
We don’t give a thought to the Eighth Commandment when we talk about others behind their backs, and don’t put them in a favorable light.
Then there is the Second Commandment of taking God’s name in vain. We know God placed his name upon us, yet we live as if we are free to live our lives as we wish. For example, we get married to people who do not believe! 2 Cor 6:14“Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what partnership does righteousness have with lawlessness? Or what fellowship does light have with darkness?”
We compare ourselves with others saying, “At least I’m not as bad as my neighbor.”
Our sin has made the road so crooked; a tangled mess of roadblocks, detours, and paths that go nowhere!
Romans 3:10–12 (EHV)
There is no one who is righteous, not even one.
11 There is no one who understands. There is no one who searches for God.
12 They all turned away; together they became useless.
There is no one who does what is good; there is not even one.
How do I fix this mess?
Can you hear the jackhammers and bulldozers?
The path of salvation leads to the cross. The path to salvation must always pass by the cross and Easter tomb.

III. Repent

Today’s text concludes with, “And everyone will see the salvation of God.”
The salvation of God always leads to the cross of Christ.
At the cross Christ Jesus suffered and died for you.
He died for all those times you put other things ahead of Him.
He died for all those times you didn’t listen and did what seemed right in our own eyes.
The road to salvation ultimately takes us to the empty tomb.
In Christ alone there is life.
“Or do you not know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him by this baptism into his death, so that just as he was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too would also walk in a new life.” Romans 6:3-4
Hebrews 1:1–3 EHV
1 In the past, God spoke to our forefathers by the prophets at many times and in many ways. 2 In these last days, he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. 3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact imprint of the divine nature. He sustains all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he took his seat at the right hand of the Majesty on high.
Christ Jesus made purification for your sins, dear friends, and now He is SEATED at the right hand of God.
The posture of “sitting” in this passage indicates that all the work necessary for your salvation is finished, complete. There is nothing left for you to do than repent and believe.
Hymn of the Day — On Jordan’s Bank the Baptist Cry
We hail Thee as our Savior Lord
Our Refuge and our great reward;
Without Thy grace we waste away
Like flowers that wither and decay.
The picture that best represents our world today is the typical male driver who, though thoroughly lost, will not stop to ask for directions. Self-pride would have one forever driving in circles, that is, our culture, society, and world. Man-made theories, goals, and visions fail to show us the way.
The voice of John crying out in the wilderness, “Prepare the way for the Lord,” can still be heard. It is heard when the church proclaims it with boldness and conviction of heart. It is heard when the one who has ears to hear, listens. The message of the way of salvation.
And so, (I). We eagerly and joyfully make the road Christ travels as smooth as possible. (II). We acknowledge the crooked paths our sins have made. (III). We level the mountains of good deeds we have piled up as monuments to ourselves.
The desire of Christ Jesus is to be near to us, which this shows itself in us by humble, repentant faith.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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