Monday, December 22, 2008

December 21, 2008 Advent IV John 1:19-28

And this is the witness of John, when the Jews of Jerusalem sent priests and Levites on a mission to him, in order that they ask him,"Who are you?" And he confessed and did not deny, yet confessed that "I myself AM not the Christ." And they asked him, "What, then, Are you Elijah?" And He said, "I am not." "Are you the Prophet?" And he answered, "No." Then they said to him, "Who are you? In order that we give an answer to those who sent us; what do you say concerning yourself?" He said, "I myself--a voice crying in the wilderness, `Straighten the way of the Lord,' just as Isaiah the prophet said." And some of the Pharisees were sent on a mission, and they asked him and said to him, "Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah nor the Prophet?" John answered them saying,"I baptize in water; In your midst stands One Whom you do not know, One Who comes after me, of whom I am not worthy, in order that I loosen the strap of His sandal.

Today's Gospel shows us a great opportunity for confession. Not the confession of sins, which is also important, but the confession of faith in Christ. John boldly makes his confession, which includes two things: what isn't true, and also what is true. All true confessions do the same thing. When we confess Jesus as the Christ, along with John, we admit what we ourselves are not, and also what Jesus is in our place. That way our confession contains the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Such confessions of faith are not very popular today. Nowadays, folks are all about saying what they think is true, but rarely do they condemn the false beliefs which are untrue. In this so-called post-modern age, tolerance is all the rage. "I believe my truth, and you have your truth, and neither one of us will condemn the other's differing beliefs." This is more than simply respecting differences of opinion. This is embracing the notion that the truth we confess is not any better than the falsehood our neighbor believes.

Praise God that John didn't fail us in his confession. Many wanted him to be the promised Messiah. He could have said, "y'all can believe I'm the Christ if you want to" in the spirit of tolerance...but He didn't. He emphatically denied having any Messiah complex about himself. In fact, John had such humility that he didn't view himself worthy of doing even the lowest slave task for Jesus. So humble was John that he didn't even recognize the prophesy of Elijah's return to prepare Christ's way, as applying to himself.

So how is your own confession of Christ Jesus? Do your everyday words give Him the glory that is due? God gives you opportunities for confession quite often. Does your demeanor betray you as a Christian, so that others will ask you for the reason for the hope you have? Or are your words and actions each day seem to have little difference from those unbelievers all around you? Perhaps you are too uncomfortable to make a bold and confident confession of Christ Jesus to your friends, neighbors, relatives and co-workers.

One reason you may lack confidence is that you don't know enough about your faith to give a good answer to those with questions. So, come to bible class! Review your faith with the pastor the next time an adult instruction class is offered. Make time from your busy schedules to attend the special worship services here at holiday time to be fed more from God's Word. Dust off your Catechism and review it once more. Get a Book of Concord and read (or re-read) about your Lutheran confession of faith.

For the Word of God is a great blessing to you. It forgives your sins whenever the Pastor proclaims Jesus' Gospel love to you from lectern, pulpit and in the sacrament of holy absolution. It is the same Gospel word which John and later Jesus connected with water to forgive you & bestow God's name upon you as His Own. It is the same Gospel word which Christ attaches to simple bread and wine, placing therein His Own body and blood, given and shed for you for your forgiveness at the Cross of Calvary.

Strengthened by this Word of God in so many ways, God Himself makes you confident in your personal confession to say the same things as God does in Holy Scripture. You may then confess the negatives along with John, that you also are not the Christ, for your ways are not the same as God's ways. Where you stray from the path God has set for you, your confession is a humble one concerning yourself. There you confess your sinfulness before your holy and righteous God and Father in heaven..

You then may confess also the positives about your Savior, Christ Jesus: that He, unlike you was perfect, keeping the Law in your place, earning eternal life in heaven for you...that He willingly took your place at the Cross, dying your death so you could live His life in glory above...that He has rescued you from sin, death & the devil as the great I AM, the LORD God Who has triumphed at the Cross. Amen.

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