+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti + Amen.
Text: Luke 3:1-6
Theme: Advent Perspectives
Dear friends in Christ Jesus,
Perspectives matter. Your point-of-reference is often vital information. It makes a big difference whether you witnessed the car wreck from the street corner or you were in the car that crashed. Spiritual perspectives are important too. Sometimes it’s good to ponder the grand questions. Is God in heaven or is heaven in God? Did Christ come from heaven or does heaven accompany Him? Is the Spirit among us or does He dwell within us? The answer is not always either/or, but a matter of perspective.
Advent intends to focus our perspective. What is our status before God? What things do we value? How do we prioritize our lives? John the Baptist is a key figure of advent. A cousin of Jesus He was chosen to be the herald of a new era. Sent not to the temple but to the wilderness His prophetic ministry was a call to remembrance for the Jews who held in their collective consciousness the desert wanderings of the exodus. It was also an embodiment of the Christian’s call to bear the cross in a world that is often akin to a spiritual desert. John was gifted with an eternal perspective.
John’s mission had been foretold long before. We heard Malachi give the abrupt decree earlier, “See, I will send My messenger, who will prepare the way before Me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to His temple…But who can endure the day of His coming? Who can stand when He appears? For He will be like a refiner’s fire.”1
A universal message, the Holy Spirit intends that every human being face head-on the coming day of reckoning. Neither the cleverest, nor the most proud, nor the most elusive will be able to escape that cosmic event.
No wonder repentance is a key theme of advent. From that perspective what could be more immediately relevant than one’s status before God? What value could be placed on acquiring the righteousness of Christ? Are believers who are counted as being righteous for Christ’s sake also made righteous by His dwelling within us? Is there not some sense in which God’s perspective is not yet our reality? Yes, this is wrapped up in the mystery of Christ’s presence and work. The Christian is truly reconciled, forgiven, righteous, sinless, holy, and saintly in God’s eyes. God promises to assess us through the cross. Yet on this side of the resurrection we are still utterly sinful, corrupt, and immoral in and of ourselves. This is the paradox of our existence. A paradox which we learn to cherish but one which also drives us to our knees.
Our righteous status before God is not just imaginary because we are still sinners. The believer is crucified with Christ in baptism. The Holy Spirit orchestrates a very real conversion; granting faith where there was unbelief and humility where there was only selfishness. The Bible says, “He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves.”2 Here the apostle speaks not of theoretical possibilities but of accomplished facts. Our rescue is a reality founded on Christ’s sacrificial work.
As Luke notes in his description of the ministry of John the Baptist, this reality of salvation has very tangible, transformative effects on believers’ lives. The Holy Spirit germinates faith and it immediately begins to grow. It happens through the divine power of the Word. Remember Paul’s petition today. He says, “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ.”3 The apostle prays the Philippians’ love may abound in knowledge and depth of insight. He wants them to mature in their Christianity.
Our faith expands and deepens as we face temptations, challenges, doubts, and fears, and turn again and again to His promises. Our faith grows in the soil of adversity. This applies to our repentance too. Sorrow for sins is not only a guttural reaction to being ‘caught out’, shamed, or convicted; it involves a maturing realization that despite our best efforts we are in desperate need of God’s grace at all times. We never grow out of the need to repent. We rather grow into it as our faith matures. We see that the way of the cross is the only road to God. We learn that Christian wisdom is not cherished by the world except where it provides some temporal benefit.
Perspectives matter. Our view from inside the church is different than someone on the outside. We may be content with our knowledge and living of the faith but how does it come across to those on the outside? Do we appear to them as apathetic or unknowledgeable? Can we reason through complex issues from a Christian viewpoint? Can we articulate clearly? Just because we know the fundamentals doesn’t mean we should stop learning. Like learning the piano we can’t play the tune unless we learn the notes and we certainly can’t improvise or compose.
Of course, some have the gift of being able to play by ear. They don’t read the notes at all. There is an analogy here too. We learn the faith by imitation. Others witness to us and we follow their lead. St. Paul said, “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me- put it into practice.”4 And again, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”5 Some are better at following than others. But if you can’t read the notes it will do you no good to have a score of music put before you that you have never heard.
Perspectives matter. Standing on the moon gives a different perspective of earth. Only a few have witnessed it. Hanging from the cross Christ had a unique perspective of the world. His perspective was unique because He hung there as a sinless man surveying an utterly sinful humanity. He hung there as the Son of God on behalf of the children of God and unbelievers too. He was suspended between earth and heaven to make a new and living way into the presence of the Father. His is the way of dynamic and unconditional love. We participate in His love every time we receive His body and blood. Soon we will bow our hearts before the infant in the manager. As well we should. But let us rejoice in the divine perspective: He points us forward to the mature Christ reigning in eternity. Come, Lord Jesus. Amen.
+ In nomine Jesu +
Second Sunday of Advent
9 December 2012
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt
1 Malachi 3:1-2
2 Colossians 1:13
3 Philippians 1:9-10
4 Philippians 4:9
5 1 Corinthians 11:1