Sermons SERMON


+ 3 Advent B

TEXT: John 1:6-8, 19-28

DATE: December 14, 2014

St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Dallas


                                    You remember what the prophet

                                    wanted us to do

                                    with that great good news –


that great good news

that God comes to us in our wilderness,

that Jesus, the Christ and Son of God,

comes into our human existence,

into the wilderness of our humanity

and all its failure, its suffering,

its sorrow, and its abandonment,


                                    that he comes to us and stretches our his arms

                                    on the wood of the cross

                                    to gather us in,

                                    to redeem and comfort us,

                                    to set us free and bring us home.


You remember what the prophet

called the people to do with that great good news:

Cry out! the word of God that will stand forever.

Get up on a high mountain.

Lift up your voice with strength.

Do not fear.

Say, “Here is your God!”


                                    He called us to witness

                                    to the coming of the one

                                    who is God with us,

                                    God’s very Word of comfort and salvation,

                                    God’s presence and light.


And who should appear but John.

Sent by God to do just that:

sent by God to bear witness to the light of God,

the true light,

the light himself.


                                    It would be easy, of course,

                                    to confuse John with something more

                                    than a simple witness.

                                    After all, he’s gathering crowds in the wilderness

                                    and baptizing them.


No wonder the priests and Levites are confused.

Especially those faithful enough

to be looking for God’s messiah,

those expecting God’s promise to be fulfilled.

There’s certainly something unusually serious

and prophetically fulfilling about John.

So they come out and ask him, who are you?


                                    John has a pretty clear idea about who he is.

                                    At least he has a very clear idea about who he is not.


Throughout the rest of John’s gospel,

Jesus will say who he is.

I am

the bread of life, (6:35)

the light of the world, (8:12)

the good shepherd. (10:11, 14)


                                    I am, he will say,

                                    the resurrection and the life, (11:25-26)

                                    the way, and the truth, and the life, (14:6)

                                    the true vine. (15:1)


John the gospel writer leaves no room for doubt:

Jesus is the one these priests and Levites are looking for.

Jesus is the one we are looking for.

The one who is coming into our wilderness of humanity

to stretch out his arms,

and to shine as the light of God is Jesus.

Jesus himself tells us, “I am”.


                                    John says simply, “I am not.”

                                    He answers them, “I am not the messiah.

                                    I am not Elijah. No, I am not the prophet.”

                                    He is rather the voice crying out –

                                    as the prophet commanded, Cry out!

                                    He is sent from God

                                    as a witness

                                    to testify to the light.


Just as we all are.

Like John the Baptist,

we are not the light.

We are not the messiah.

But we are sent from God as witnesses

to testify to the light.

It’s who we are by our baptism.

It’s whom God has made us to be.


                                    And in this modern age

                                    when neither the faith nor the church grows

                                    just by having babies

                                    like it did in the 50’s and 60’s,

                                    in this age when the message of the gospel,

                                    the Christian faith,

                                    and the stories of the Bible

                                    are known by fewer and fewer people,

                                    our proclamation of the gospel’s good news

                                    and our sharing the faith

                                    is more critical than ever.


David Lose, president of the Philadelphia Seminary,

shared a reflection about that this week

in his blog, “…In the Meantime”.

Advent 3B, Practicing Advent, posted by DJL on December 8, 2014 in Dear Partner



                                    The story goes that

                                    the mother of a young pastor

                                    asked him why he was the only one of her children

                                    who still went to church.


In response, he asked her

what she would tell her children – his siblings –

if they asked her why she went to church.

Why, in short, was her faith important to her?


                                    …Like many adult Christians,

                                    she hadn’t been asked to talk about her faith

                                    since confirmation.

                                    And so articulating her reasons for going to church,

                                    let alone the importance of her faith,

                                    was remarkably difficult,” says Lose.


I suspect the same might be true for us.

It’s important to the faith and the church,

and our calling as baptized children of the light,

that we share why our faith is important to us

with friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors.


                                    Not in a pushy, in-your-face kind of way,

                                    but rather in the same honest, even casual way

                                    we’d share other things that are important to us.


Here, of course,

in these relatively safe confines of church,

is where it should be relatively easy

to talk about why your faith is important to you.

So, here is where we should practice sharing our faith

so that we might be prepared to do that

outside of church.


                                    But it’s not easy, I know,

                                    and I know you’re not crazy about those times

                                    I make you talk to each other about something

                                    during the sermon.


Besides, it’s probably best

to first spend some time

thinking about your response to those questions on your own.


                                    So that’s what I invite you to do.


Think about why your faith is important to you.

Think about why your congregation is important to you.

Think about why Christmas is important to you.


                                    But then comes the challenge,

                                    because the prophet doesn’t call us to think about it.

                                    Our baptismal call is not to think about it.


So when you’ve thought about it, share it.

Share it with those

who share this community of St. Paul’s with you.

Share it with your family.

Share it with me.

Share it with whomever you’re comfortable with.

And keep sharing it

until you get comfortable and confident enough

to share it with your neighbor, your co-worker,

or whoever might ask you about it

as they pass through your day.


                                    Share it until you can

                                    cry out the word of God that will stand forever,

                                    until you can lift up your voice with strength;

                                    share it until you can without fear,

                                    until you can say, “Here is your God!”


Be the voice of one crying out in the wilderness of this world.

Bear witness to the coming of the one

who is God with us,

God’s very Word of comfort and salvation,

God’s presence and light.


Back to top