Fourth Sunday in Advent - Rorate Coeli - December 23rd, Year of Our + Lord 2012
Trinity and St. John Lutheran Churches - Sidney and Fairview, MT
John 1:19-28 - You Are Not the Christ But You Confess the One Who Is
Vicar Jason Toombs
“Are you the Christ?” “Well, are you?” “Who are you?” This was the question that the religious leaders, the priests and the Levites, asked of John the Baptist. This is also the question for you. Are you the Christ?
“Are you the [Christ] the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” This was the question that John the Baptist wanted to know of Jesus. This is also the question for you. Are you the Christ?
If you are the Christ, show me that you are. Do something miraculous. Raise the dead. Give life to the lifeless. Do something. ... Did you just do something? ... Did you shake your head no? You did shake your head no. You are not the Christ but you confess the one who is.
John the Baptist made the same confession. He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” He confessed that the greater one was in their midst. John knows himself and knows who he is. He knows he is the son of Zechariah and Elizabeth. He knows he is the forerunner preparing the way of the Lord. He knows he is not the Christ. He didn’t think he is Elijah nor the Prophet. He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.” He was the forerunner preparing the way for Jesus. Even while preaching the imminent kingdom of God, even while baptizing for repentance and forgiveness, John clearly confessed: I am not the Christ.
You are not the Christ. You could not be the Christ. The Christ was sent to redeem all Israel, all the people of God. Were you sent to redeem others? No. You cannot even redeem yourself. Nor would you want to be the Christ. The Christ was sent to suffer and die. You suffer throughout your life but it is nothing compared to Christ’s suffering. On the cross Christ suffered the full weight of God’s wrath. You are not the Christ.
John the Baptist is not the Christ. Only Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One. The Christ was promised to redeem all Israel. His task is to redeem, purchase, God’s chosen people from Satan. Jesus came to redeem not just Israel but all people. He came to redeem you. He purchases you back from the grasp of the devil. He comes to save you.
He did all of this for you. And you confess Him as your Lord and Savior. You confess that He was born of the Virgin Mary. And you celebrate this fact on Tuesday. As the rest of the world wakes up on Christmas morning to presents left by Santa Claus you celebrate your Lord’s incarnation, His coming in the flesh. As the world wishes everyone “Happy Holidays!” you say “Merry Christmas!” You say “Merry Christmas” because you know the reason for the season. You know that your Lord and Savior was born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem and this you confess.
You also confess that your Lord and Savior went to the cross to take away your sin, and not just your sin but the sin of the whole world. You celebrate this fact on Good Friday but you also celebrate every day. Every day you sin and this weighs you down. You become burdened with the cares of this world. Did I get the cards in the mail soon enough? Are the presents going to arrive? Did I invite everyone to the Christmas dinner? Is the goose cooked? As the world worries over these things, your eyes are drawn to the cross.
The world looks at the cross and mocks you. Your Lord died. How can God die? The world sees it as foolishness but you see something great there. You see where your Lord became sin for you. He took your sin upon Himself and gives you His holiness. The sweet swap, the blessed exchange, where Jesus takes your sinfulness and gives you His holiness. Foolish says the world, “nobody can die for another person. You have to pay your own way. There’s no such thing as a ‘free lunch.’” But that’s what happened. It had to happen because you and I could never pay our own way. We owe too much to God. We owe Him for every single sin that we have ever committed. To pay for them we have to die. Jesus steps in and does this for you. Only Jesus could pay for the sins of others. And on the cross Jesus paid for all sins.
And Jesus died for you. He died in your place. He paid the ultimate price. He gave up His life for you. And He invites you to walk along the way that leads to heaven. And you rejoice in Him. “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” You rejoice in the fact that your Lord and Savior died for your sake. You rejoice and confess that Jesus died for the sin of the world.
And you also confess that He didn’t stay dead. He died on the cross and was buried in the tomb but it doesn’t end there. He also rose victorious on the third day. In His rising again He showed that death and the grave had no power over Him. He has conquered them in fight, He has brought us life and light. He has defeated death and the grave.
It shouldn’t alarm us when a loved one dies. It is sad when they die but it is no case for alarm. You know that everyone who lives will one day die. They are all infected with the sin of Adam, the sin which first brought death into the world. Americans also know this from Ben Franklin, “in the world nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes.” But it is alarming and saddening when a loved one dies. We are alarmed, shocked, when they die. We always thought there would be a little more time. And we are sad; sad that they won’t be with us to celebrate the holidays. We won’t see them across the dinner table on Christmas, they won’t be there at Easter. This is especially true if they don’t know Christ. We are saddened when we realize they won’t be with us in heaven.
But you have already died. You have died to this world and its king, King Satan. You have died and been brought to a new life, a better life. You have been born again, born from above, with a new king, the King of Creation as your Father.
You have Jesus as the one who gives this to you. In your baptism you are buried with Christ and raised with Him. You are raised to a new life, a triumphant life. You live this new life with God as your King. The Heavenly Father is your Father. And He gives you life and light through His only-begotten Son Jesus Christ. Though the days are dark and dreary in Advent, the light is about to dawn. Jesus Christ, the light of the world, has come to be your light, come to be your Savior, come to be your all.
God sent His Son Jesus Christ to earth to fulfill what He spoke to Moses. Moses prophesied, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers--it is to him you shall listen.” Jesus Christ is the Prophet, the greater one than Moses and John the Baptist. Jesus Christ is God of God, Light of Light. Jesus Christ is the only-begotten Son of God, born of the virgin Mary. He is true-God and true-Man. He is Emmanuel, the Wisdom from on high, the Lord of might, the Branch of Jesse’s tree, the Key of David, the Dayspring from on high, the Desire of the nations as we just sang. He is the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One who came to redeem His people. He came to redeem you.
You confess all of this about Jesus. You rejoice in all that He has done for you. Through prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving you let your requests be made known to God through Jesus. You pray the prayer that He handed over to you. You call God, Our Father. You pray that His will be done. You don’t pray for this little thing or to ask that He just does that thing. We ask Him to do all things for our good. We don’t just want one thing, and just need another, and just another. No. We need Him to work all things for our good. His kingdom come, His will be done. We need Him to give us everything that we need for this body and life. And we need Him to give us everything for the life to come. We need Him to bring us to Himself in heaven.
You confess that you are not the Christ but you boldly confess Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the Living God. You confess and rejoice that He is your Lord and Savior. You confess that the babe born of Mary, laid in a manger, is your Lord. You confess that Jesus Christ was crucified, died, and buried is your Lord. You confess the risen Jesus as your Savior. You confess and rejoice that you have a Lord and Savior that cares for you. “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.”